JERUSALEM (JTA) — The hero pilot of a plane hijacked in 1972 by Palestinian terrorists has died.
Reginald Levy died Sunday of a heart attack near his home in Dover, England. He was 88.
His actions and calm under fire enabled Israeli troops to rescue the more than 100 passengers — including his wife, Dora — and crew aboard Sabena flight 571 after members of the Black September group stormed the plane heading from Brussels to Tel Aviv. The hijackers threatened to blow up the aircraft unless Israel released 317 Palestinians from prison.
On the ground in Israel, Levy gave information to Israeli officials after the hijackers sent him to show the Israelis what kind of explosives they had on board.
The flight took place on Levy’s 50th birthday. He and his wife had been planning to celebrate with dinner in Tel Aviv.
At a dinner honoring the rescuers, which included current Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, several days after the incident, then-Prime Minister Golda Meir reportedly kissed Levy and said, “We love you.”