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History of PIA - Pakistan International Airlines

Date: December 03, 1971

Aircraft Type: Boeing 720-040B

Registration: AP-AMG

Aircraft Name: "City of Comilla"

Crew: 6 on board

Passengers: 22 on board

Total on board: 28

Number of hijackers: 1

Victims: 0

Flight: London - Paris - Rome - Cairo - Karachi

Flight number: PK-712

Description: On December 3, 1971, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Boeing 720B was operating flight PK-712 from London to Karachi via Paris, Rome and Cairo. PK-712 with seventeen passengers and six crew members arrived from London at Paris Orly Airport according to its flight route.

Five passengers boarded the aircraft at Paris. The last of these five passengers was a 28-year old French man named Jean Kay who was able to enter the aircraft without undergoing normal security procedures. Around 11:50 AM the aircraft doors were closed and when its engines were getting started, Jean Kay slipped into aircraft cockpit. Armed with a pistol he threatened cockpit crew and asked them to shut down engines. He ordered aircraft fuel tanks to be filled to the top. He also demanded 20 tons of medicines to be loaded into the aircraft for their delivery in India for refugees displaced due to unrest in then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The incident happened few hours before the start of 1971 Indo-Pak war that ended on December 16 with East Pakistan becoming independent Bangladesh.

PIA Boeing 720-040B

Boeing 720-040B  (Abbas Ali Collection)

Hijacked AP-AMG "City of Comilla" sitting at Paris-Orly Airport, France, on December 3, 1971. The Lufthansa Boeing 737 visible in the background was taxiing after landing and it was carrying Chancellor of West Germany Willy Brandt on visit to France

The hijacker also carried a briefcase with two wires sticking out of it and he claimed that it was a bomb. He threatened to blow up the aircraft with the explosive device if his demands were not met. He also arranged a passenger as interpreter for communicating with cockpit crew who could not speak or understand French language. For much of the day, the French authorities thought there were two hijackers involved and they identified them as a Frenchman and a Pakistani.

Pakistani passengers felt terrified when the hijacker announced that he would let everybody except them off at Beirut in Lebanon before heading to India.

PIA Boeing 720-040B

Boeing 720-040B  (Abbas Ali Collection)

Some of freed passengers coming out of hijacked AP-AMG sitting at Paris-Orly Airport, France, on December 3, 1971

Meanwhile, French authorities began arranging delivery of medicines demanded by the hijacker. By 5:15 PM the first truck load of medicines arrived at the airport. While cases of these medicines were loaded into aircraft cargo hold, the hijacker allowed a number of elderly passengers and an infant to disembark. He also allowed stewardesses to serve meals to passengers in the aircraft.

The authorities tested hijacker's patience by carrying out process of loading medicines slowly and managed to get his permission for loading some medicines in rear section of aircraft passenger cabin. Four French policemen disguised as Red Cross workers with Red Cross arm bands entered passenger cabin through aircraft rear door to load medicines. At the same time two more policemen disguised as Air France aircraft technicians entered aircraft cockpit through a trap door. A policeman disguised as Red Cross pounced on the hijacker who retaliated by opening fire from his 9mm pistol. The bullet pierced police officer's sweater and slightly wounded his hand. The hijacker received a number of blows as he scuffled with the policemen who had entered the aircraft through trap door. The policemen successfully overpowered and seized the hijacker to end six hour hijacking. The subdued hijacker was removed from the aircraft and arrested for interrogation. The only weapon carried by him was the 9mm pistol. The briefcase that he claimed was a bomb contained a French Bible, English-French dictionary, a razor, clothes brush and a pair of harmless electrical wires.

PIA Cabin Crew

Cabin Crew  (Abbas Ali Collection)

Smiling and happy PIA Air Hostesses photographed after the end of hijacking at Paris-Orly Airport, France, on December 3, 1971

After the end of hijacking, the Boeing 720B was cleared to depart from Paris.

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