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08/05/2010

Reginald Levy, pilot praised for bravery in 1972 hijacking, dies at 88

August 5, 2010 | 12:03 pm

Levy Reginald Levy, a pilot praised for his cool-headed bravery during a 1972 hijacking by Palestinian militants, has died. He was 88.

Levy died Sunday in Dover, England, of a suspected heart attack or blood clot, said his daughter, Linda Lipschitz

Levy was a pilot for the Belgian airline Sabena when he took off from Brussels bound for Tel Aviv on May 8, 1972 — his 50th birthday — with 90 passengers on board. Mid-journey, the Boeing 707 was hijacked by four armed members of the group Black September, who ordered Levy to land at Israel's Lod — now Ben Gurion — airport and threatened to blow up the plane if Israel did not release more than 300 Palestinian prisoners.

Levy's response was admirably calm, even though one of the passengers was his wife, Dora.

Sent to convey messages from the militants to Israeli authorities led by Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, Levy gave the Israelis detailed descriptions of the attackers' numbers, weapons and positions.

After almost 24 hours, commandos disguised as airplane mechanics stormed the plane, killing two of the hijackers and capturing the other two.

Among the commandos were Ehud Barak, now Israel's defense minister, and the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Several passengers were injured, but none was killed.

"Every one of us is lucky to be alive," Levy said after the attack. "I have had some tough times, but this was my toughest."

-- Associated Press

Photo: Reginald Levy in 1972. Credit: Associated Press

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