- Philippine Airlines Flight 434
Philippine Airlines Flight 434
Aftermath of the bombing, photographed by the United States Diplomatic Security Service.
Occurrence summary Date December 11, 1994 Type Bomb detonation leading to loss of flight controls Site Minami Daito Island Passengers 273 Crew 20 Injuries 10 Fatalities 1 Survivors 292 Aircraft type Boeing 747-283B Operator Philippine Airlines Tail number EI-BWF Flight origin Ninoy Aquino International Airport Last stopover Mactan-Cebu International Airport Destination Narita International Airport
Philippine Airlines Flight 434 (PAL434, PR434) was the route designator of a flight from Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Pasay City, the Philippines, to New Tokyo International Airport (now Narita International Airport), Narita near Tokyo, Japan, with one stop at Mactan-Cebu International Airport, Cebu, the Philippines.
On December 11, 1994 the Boeing 747-283B, tail number EI-BWF, was flying on the second leg of the route, from Cebu to Tokyo, when a bomb planted by terrorist Ramzi Yousef exploded killing one passenger. It was a part of the unsuccessful Bojinka terrorist attacks. The captain of the flight, an experienced veteran pilot, landed the aircraft saving the plane and all the remaining passengers and crew.
Authorities later discovered that a passenger on the aircraft's preceding leg was Ramzi Yousef. He was later convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Yousef boarded the flight under the fake Italian name "Armaldo Forlani", an incorrect spelling of the name of the Italian legislator Arnaldo Forlani.
Setting the bomb
Yousef went into the lavatory with his dopp kit in hand and took off his shoes to get out the batteries, wiring, and spark source hidden in the heel (below where metal detectors in use at the time could detect). Yousef removed an altered Casio digital watch from his wrist to be used as a timer, unpacked the remaining materials from his dopp kit, and assembled his bomb. He set the timer for four hours later, which was approximately the time at which the plane would be far out over the ocean en route to Tokyo, put the entire bomb back into his dopp kit, and returned to his current seat.
The bomb was tucked into the life vest pocket under his seat, number 26K, where it would be out of the view of ground crews cleaning the plane at Cebu, and made one more seat change. In older 747s seat 26K is directly over the center fuel tank, where a rupture caused by a bomb would cause the airplane itself to explode even if the initial bomb blast did not cause sufficient damage to crash the plane. Philippine domestic flight attendant Maria dela Cruz noticed that Yousef kept switching seats during the course of the Manila to Cebu flight, but got off the plane at Cebu with the rest of the domestic flight crew, and did not pass the information along to the international flight crew that boarded at Cebu for the trip to Tokyo.
Yousef and 25 other passengers also got off the plane at Cebu, where 256 more passengers and a new cabin crew boarded the plane for the final leg of the flight to Tokyo, Japan.
After a 38-minute delay the flight took off with a total of 273 passengers on board and 24-year old Haruki Ikegami (池上春樹 Ikegami Haruki ), a Japanese industrial sewing machine maker returning from a business trip to Cebu, occupying 26K. Four hours after Yousef planted his bomb, the device exploded, killing Ikegami and injuring an additional 10 passengers in adjacent seats in front of and behind seat 26K. The blast blew a hole in the floor, and the cabin's rapid expansion from the explosion severed several control cables in the ceiling, which controlled the plane's right aileron, as well as cables that connected to both the pilot and first officer's steering controls. By chance this particular 747, formerly operated by SAS Scandinavian Airlines, had a different seating configuration and seat 26K was two rows forward of the center fuel tank so that the hole in the floor punched through to the cargo hold instead and spared the plane from a fiery explosion.
The bomb's orientation, positioned front-to-back and upward angled from horizontal, caused the blast to expand vertically and lengthwise. This configuration meant that Ikegami's body absorbed most of the blast force and the plane's outer structure was spared. The lower half of his body fell into the cargo hold and ten passengers sitting in the seats in front of and behind Ikegami were also injured; one needed urgent medical care. The bomb tore out a two square foot (0.2 m2) portion of the cabin floor, revealing the cargo hold underneath, but the fuselage of the plane stayed intact. Additionally, the 38-minute delay in takeoff from Cebu meant the plane was not as far out to sea as anticipated, which contributed to the captain's options available for an emergency landing.
Masaharu Mochizuki, a passenger on the flight, recalled that injured passengers initially tried to move away from the blast site, but cabin crew told passengers to remain where they were until an assessment of the situation could be made Fernando Bayot, a flight attendant covering the forward part of the aircraft, moved an injured passenger away from the bomb site. Bayot then saw Ikegami and tried to pull him out of the hole, but soon realized that most of Ikegami's body below the waist was either damaged or missing entirely. Ikegami died minutes later. Bayot called another flight attendant over to pretend to minister to Ikegami's needs with a blanket and oxygen mask in order to prevent additional panic, then reported the extent of the passenger injuries to the cockpit.
Immediately after the explosion, the aircraft banked hard to the right but the autopilot quickly corrected the bank. After the blast, Reyes asked Comendador to survey the blast site to check for damage. Reyes placed the Mayday call requesting landing at Naha Airport, Okinawa Island, Okinawa Prefecture. The Japanese air traffic controller experienced difficulty in trying to understand Reyes's request, so an American air traffic controller from a United States military base on Okinawa took over and processed Reyes's landing. The autopilot had stopped responding to Reyes's commands and the aircraft flew past Okinawa.
Reyes said in an interview for the Canadian TV series Mayday that when he disengaged the autopilot he feared that the aircraft would bank right again and the crew would lose control of the aircraft; however, because of the pressing need to land quickly to attend to the injured and inspect the plane for additional damage, Reyes instructed Herrera to take hold of his own controls and then Reyes deactivated the autopilot. The aircraft did not bank after the disengagement of the autopilot, but neither would it respond to steering inputs from either controller due to the control cable damage caused by the bomb. The crew struggled to use the ailerons which could allow the aircraft to turn but still were unable to change the plane's direction. Finally the flight crew disengaged the auto-throttles and resorted to steering via throttle control reminiscent of United Airlines Flight 232.
By using the throttles to steer the plane, reducing air speed to both control the radius of turns and to allow the plane to descend, and dumping fuel to lessen the strain on the landing gear, the captain landed the damaged Boeing 747-283B at Naha Airport at 12:45 p.m., one hour after the bomb exploded. The aircraft's other 272 passengers and 20 crew members survived.
United States prosecutors said the device was a "Mark II" "microbomb" constructed using Casio digital watches as described in Phase I of the Bojinka plot, for which this was a test. On Flight 434, Yousef used one tenth of the explosive power he planned to use on eleven U.S. airliners in January 1995. The bomb was, or at least all of its components were, designed to slip through airport security checks undetected. The explosive used was liquid nitroglycerin, which was disguised as a bottle of contact lens fluid. Other ingredients included glycerin, nitrate, sulfuric acid, and minute concentrations of nitrobenzene, silver azide, and liquid acetone. The wires he used were hidden in the heel of his shoe, below the detectable range of the metal detectors used by airports of the day.
Manila police were able to track the batteries used in the bomb and many of its contents from Okinawa back to Manila. Police uncovered Yousef's plan on the night of January 6 and the early morning of January 7, 1995, and Yousef was arrested a month later in Pakistan.
The current Flight 434
Today Flight 434 is still used but no longer originates in Manila. It is a Cebu-Tokyo flight using Airbus A330-300 aircraft rather than Boeing 747s. Philippine Airlines still operates a Manila-Tokyo route as flight 432.
The aircraft, at the time having the tail number EI-BWF, was later converted to a cargo configuration Boeing 747-2XBF. It subsequently changed hands several times, always to air cargo companies, and finally placed in storage in 2007.
Flight 434 coverage
In addition to the news broadcasts, the popular Discovery Channel show Mayday (also known as Air Crash Investigation and Air Emergency) aired an episode about Philippine Airlines Flight 434 called "Bomb on Board." The recognizable Filipino Canadian actor Von Flores portrayed Captain Reyes.
- Pan Am Flight 830, a similar incident that occurred 12 years earlier
- 1988 Lockerbie Bombing, Pan Am plane destroyed by bomb, killing 270 people
- 1995 Bojinka plot, al-Qaeda plot to blow up 12 planes as they flew from Asia to the U.S.
- 2001 shoe bomb plot, failed al-Qaeda PETN bombing of plane
- 2006 Transatlantic Aircraft Plot, failed plot to blow up at least 10 planes as they flew from the U.K. to the U.S. and Canada
- 2009 Christmas Day bomb plot, failed al-Qaeda PETN bombing of plane
- 2010 cargo plane bomb plot, failed al-Qaeda PETN bombing of plane
- List of terrorist incidents, 1994
- List of accidents and incidents on commercial airliners
- Flying an airplane without control surfaces
- Loss of control
- ^ State's Security Bureau Takes on Expanded Role, Washington Post, September 27, 2004.
- ^ a b CNN.com, January 8, 1998. 'Proud terrorist' gets life for Trade Center Bombing.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z "Bomb on Board," Mayday season 3, episode 6. First aired 2005.
- ^ a b Yousef bombs Philippines Airlines Flight 434, GlobalSecurity.Org report on incident
- ^ GovTrack: Senate Record: TRIBUTE TO CAPTAIN EDUARDO REYES (110-s20070215-46)
- ^ Boeing 747 – MSN 21575, airfleets.net
Incidents resulting in at least 50 deaths shown in italics. Deadliest incident shown in bold smallcaps.
- Smith, R. Jeffrey. "New Devices May Foil Airline Security." The Washington Post. Sunday July 21, 1996. A01.
- Criminal Occurrence description at the Aviation Safety Network
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