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History of PIA - Pakistan International Airlines

Date: May 24, 1998

Aircraft Type: Fokker F27 Friendship Mark 200

Registration: AP-BCZ

Aircraft Name: "City of Bannu"

Crew: 5 on board  (Complete list of crew is at the bottom of this page)

Passengers: 28 on board

Total on board: 33

Number of hijackers: 3

Victims: 0

Flight: Turbat - Gwadar - Karachi

Flight number: PK-554

Description: PK-554 departed from Turbat Airport at 4:40 PM for flight to Karachi via Gwadar. The F27 at that time was carrying a total of 29 passengers including three traveling to Gwadar. At 5:35 PM it landed at Gwadar Airport where three Gwadar-bound passengers disembarked. During Fokker's 20 minute stay at Gwadar Airport, two passengers boarded the aircraft for flight to Karachi. The aircraft now carrying 27 passengers and 5 crew members departed from Gwadar at 5:55 PM for its final destination Karachi where it was expected to land at 6:55 PM. After takeoff from Gwadar, a young man got up from his seat and moved towards the aircraft cockpit. An Air Hostess tried to stop the man from entering the cockpit but she was pushed away. He entered the cockpit and with a pistol ordered pilots to divert flight to Jodhpur, India. He was also joined by his two colleagues to hijack the aircraft. An announcement was made by the pilot to inform passengers that aircraft has been hijacked and will now be flown to India.

PIA Fokker F27 Friendship Mark 200

Fokker F27 Friendship Mark 200  (Abbas Ali Collection)

"City of Bannu" and Pakistan Army soldiers at Hyderabad Airport photographed after the end of aircraft hijacking

The pilot managed to set aircraft transponder to hijack code for secretly sending distress signal and alert air traffic controllers on the ground. The F27 on Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Pakistan Air Force (PAF) radars appeared deviating from its flight path and heading towards Indian air space. Two PAF F-7 Skybolt supersonic fighter interceptor aircraft that were on a routine Combat Air Patrol (CAP) flight in that area began monitoring the flight of hijacked PIA F27 and escorted it. The pilot of flight PK-554 told the hijackers that the aircraft is running out of fuel and he is going to land it at Bhuj Airport in India. The shrewd pilot then landed the aircraft at Hyderabad Airport in Pakistan and told the hijackers that the aircraft has landed at Bhuj Airport in India and needs to be refueled. Because the hijackers did not understand English language so it was possible for cockpit crew and airport authorities to discuss the situation and plan their actions in English language. The authorities at Hyderabad Airport also switched off airport lights to prevent hijackers from identifying the airfield.

One of the three hijackers stayed inside the cockpit, another positioned himself near the main door of the aircraft and the third roamed through aircraft cabin. All thee were wearing shalwar kameez.

A number of Pakistani government and security officials pretending as Indian officials started talks with the hijackers. The hijackers demanded a meeting with Pakistan's High Commissioner in India to present their demands. The hijackers were unhappy over reports of Pakistan government plans to conduct nuclear tests in Balochistan. They sought assurance that nuclear tests would not be conducted on Balochistan soil. The hijackers also complained against inappropriate distribution of funds for Balochistan and lack of humanitarian assistance for areas affected by floods in Makran. The hijackers threatened to kill crew members and passengers if their demands were not fulfilled. One of the hijackers shouted that he will blow up the aircraft and one of his partners displayed a bag that he claimed contained explosives.

Meanwhile, Pakistani officials acting as Indians continued holding talks with the hijackers and during this process assessed the overall situation for planning their action to overpower the hijackers. The aircraft also received food and water for passengers and crew.

Around 11:35 PM hijackers sent aircraft's Ground Engineer Sajjad Chaudhry to get water and food and ask airport authorities to refuel the aircraft for flight to New Delhi. The Ground Engineer returned to the aircraft with food and water.

At night, the aircraft's lights went off and its cabin became hot. Due to darkness the terrified children began crying and shouting and at that point hijackers allowed what they thought was an Indian aircraft technician on board but actually he was a Pakistan Army officer. After the disguised man left the aircraft, around 2:50 AM, the Pakistani officials acting as Indians managed to persuade the hijackers to free women, children and infants aboard the aircraft. While women and children were getting down from the aircraft, other passengers also tried to get out and in the melee that followed the hijackers were easily overpowered by disguised Pakistanis including men belonging to Pakistan Army and Police.

PIA Fokker F27 Friendship Mark 200

Fokker F27 Friendship Mark 200  (Abbas Ali Collection)

AP-BCZ after the end of hijacking at Hyderabad Airport. The Pakistani officials are checking a bag that was carried by hijackers

The three hijackers were identified as Pakistan nationals Sabir Baloch, Shabbir Rind and their leader Shahswar Baloch. Two pistols were recovered from their possession.

A special PIA F27 flight transported freed passengers from Hyderabad to Karachi where it landed at 7:55 AM on May 25. Later, the released aircraft was also flown to Karachi where it landed at 9:30 AM on May 25.


Crew members of hijacked PIA Fokker F27 Friendship Mark 200 (registration AP-BCZ):

Cockpit Crew:
Captain Uzair Khan
First Officer M. Faisal
Cabin Crew:
Air Hostess Khalida Afridi
Air Hostess Asma Irani
Engineering:
Ground Engineer Sajjad Chaudhry



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