Two Stories of Aircraft Terrorism and Music

With the mystery around Malaysian Airlines flight 370 getting deeper and weirder by the day–Hijacking? Sabotage? Terrorism?–I’m reminded of two stories involving civilian aircraft and musicians.

1.  Pan-Am Flight 103

A bomb hidden in a Toshiba cassette player brought down this 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988.  All 243 passengers and 16 crew were killed along with 11 on the ground.  A Libyan named Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrah was eventually convicted but proclaimed his innocence until his death.  There are plenty of conspiracy theories has to what actually happened, including allegations that the bombing was engineered by Iran as retaliation against the US for accidentally shooting down an Iranian passenger plane earlier that year.

Johnny Lydon was supposed to be on that flight with his wife Nora, but she apparently took too much time to pack so they missed the flight.  Plus the entire line-up of The Four Tops were also scheduled to be aboard but a recording session the night before went late and they all overslept and missed the plane.  Canadian actress Kim Cattrall had also planned to fly out on PA103, but decided to stay in London to do more Christmas shopping.


2.  British Airways Flight 2069

The flight on December 29, 2000, from Gatwick to Nairobi began normally enough after a late-night takeoff.  Around 5am when the plane was over Sudan, a mentally ill man from Kenya named Paul Mukonyi stormed the cockpit.  Alternate pilot Captain Bill Hagan was asleep in his bunk when he felt the whole plane lurch.  Heading for the cockpit, he heard the co-pilot shouting about something.  Mukonyi had grabbed the controls and the plane was in a dive.  Hagan punched Mukonyi has hard as he could and dragged him out of the way so that another pilot could get things under control.  Hagan gouged Mukonyi’s eyes to incapacitate him–a trick he learned from his son in case he ever needed to fight off a shark attack.  Meanwhile, the plane stalled three times and nearly went upside down.

In the end, all 398 passengers on board were safe.  Among them was Roxy Music singer Bryan Ferry and his family.



Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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