Video of Boeing 767 Crash

Video 83 added on 2006-09-18:
Video Type: Crash
Aircraft: Boeing 767
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Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961 was hijacked on November 23, 1996 en route from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Nairobi, Kenya by three Ethiopians seeking political asylum. The plane crashed in the Indian Ocean near Comoros after running out of fuel, killing 123 of the 175 passengers and crew on board.

The hijack

When the Boeing 767-260ER entered Kenyan airspace that day, three Ethiopian men charged the cockpit and hijacked the airplane. According to a special report by, "One of the men ran down the aisle toward the cockpit shouting statements that could not be understood, and his two accomplices followed soon after." The report described the men as "young (mid-twenties), inexperienced, psychologically fragile, and intoxicated."[1]

The men threatened to blow up the plane with a bomb, announcing over the intercom that they were opponents of the Ethiopian government seeking political asylum, having recently been released from prison. Authorities later determined that the "bomb" was a covered bottle of liquor.

The hijackers demanded that the plane be flown to Australia, but the plane didn't have enough fuel to make it even a quarter of the way there. The pilot tried to explain this to the hijackers, but they didn't believe him. Instead of pointing the plane in the direction of Australia, the captain followed the African coastline. The hijackers, however, noticed that land was still visible and forced the pilot to steer east. The pilot secretly headed for the Comoros Islands, lying between Madagascar and the African mainland.

Flight 961 breaks up

The plane was nearly out of fuel as it approached the island group, but the hijackers continued to ignore the captain's warnings. Out of options, the captain began to circle the area, hoping to land the plane on the island group's main airport. When the plane finally ran out of fuel, both engines failed and the plane became a glider. The crew used a ram air turbine to preserve the aircraft's most essential functions, but in this mode some hydraulic systems?such as the flaps?were inoperative. This forced the pilot to land at more than 175 knots (about 200 miles per hour or 320 kilometers per hour).

The pilot tried to make an emergency landing on the airport at Grande Comore, but a fight with the hijackers at the last minute caused him to lose his visual point of reference, leaving him unable to locate the airport. The captain ditched the aircraft in shallow waters 500 meters off of Le Galawa Beach, near the capital of the Comoros Islands, Moroni. The left engine and wingtip struck the water first, causing the aircraft to break up in the water. Island residents and tourists, including a group of scuba divers and some French doctors on vacation, came to the aid of crash survivors.

The crash claimed the lives of 123 of the 175 passengers and crew members. All three hijackers are presumed dead. The captain of the flight, Leul Abate, and the co-pilot, Yonas Merkuria, were among the survivors. Mohamed Amin, a famous photojournalist, was among the casualties.


This is perhaps one of the most well-known hijackings because a vacationing couple recorded the crash on videotape. The video would later serve as an important tool in studies of aviation crashes and procedures.

This was one of the very few large airliner water landings that yielded any survivors. Both the captain and co-pilot of the flight have received aviation awards, and both continue to fly for Ethiopian Airlines.

The crash was featured in an episode of Mayday (aka Air Emergency/Air Crash Investigation).

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961".

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