Reginald Levy
Photo courtesy of family
Levy in his youth
Photo courtesy of family

Heroic Sabena pilot dies at 88

Reginald Levy, who helped free hijacked plane in 1972 dies of heart attack in British hospital

Reginald Levy, the pilot of the Sabena airplane hijacked by terrorist in 1972, died this week in Britain. He was 88-year-old.


Levy's daughter, Linda Lifschitz, told Ynet that a few days before passing away, her father

received a letter from President Shimon Peres wishing him a speedy recovery.


Lifschitz, who lives in Israel, recounted the last conversation she had with her father, who helped security forces take over the hijacked aircraft at Ben Gurion Airport.

Hostages freed from Sabena plane, 1972 (Photo: Illan Ron, GPO) 


"Last Saturday, a day before he passed away, dad called me and told me of the letter he received from President Peres. He asked that I tell the president he had received the letter," she said. The next day, Levy, who was hospitalized, suffered a heart attack and died.


The Jewish captain's daughter described the hijacking incident her father experienced 38 years ago. "At the time I was a stewardess in England. I spoke to dad a day before the plane was hijacked. He told me he planned on flying the next day to Tel Aviv with my mother, in order to celebrate his 50th birthday. I wished him a happy birthday and told him we would speak when he returned. In the evening, I watched TV and found out about the hijacking," she said.


'Intentionally stalled'

Lifschitz also spoke about the assistance her father gave the IDF's elite Sayeret Matkal unit, which freed the hostages: "The terrorists sent him to tell the Israelis that they mean business. They also gave him some explosives in order to prove their point. In the airport, he met (former Defense Minister) Moshe Dayan, Shimon Peres and other officials. They shared with him their plan of action, and told him that one of the soldiers will release some of the air pressure from the tires and sabotage the plane's brakes system."


According to Lifschitz, her father was asked to tell the four hijackers that the plane cannot take off due to a malfunction. Those who were then sent to "fix" the plane were Sayeret Matkal fighters. The operation was orchestrated by then Lieutenant-Colonel Ehud Barak, who served as the unit's commander. One of the fighters on board the plane was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


"They said my father's aim was to buy time and he did that by calling out the prisoners' names. Dad said he intentionally stalled and made mistakes on the list so he would have to read it over again. He told the terrorists that they had no choice but to fix the plane. He knew the technicians were soldiers. When he saw Dayan he told him how many terrorists were on board, what they wore and their position on the plane," Lifschitz added.


After the affair concluded, the hero from Sabena was forced to leave Belgium. "My parents went back to Brussels and were constantly threatened by Black September. Sabena sent them to South Africa, and I moved with them and later to Israel," said Lifschitz, noting that her father would visit her in Israel once in a while. "The last time he came was on Shimon Peres' 80th birthday, to which he was invited," she said.



פרסום ראשון: 08.05.10, 00:38
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