Hijacking of Singapore Airlines Flight 117

Following the recent Manila bus hijacking incident (unbelievable right?), I came across a very interesting blog supposedly written by a SIA cabin crew.

The post that caught my attention was this true story related by Toby, a former steward who was working on Flight 117 when it was hijacked by 4 Pakistanis on 26 March 1991.

In 1991 March 26, Singapore Airlines Flight SQ117 was hijacked at 10:15 pm. The Airbus, carrying 118 passengers and eleven crew members (9 cabin 2 cockpit crew), was a shuttle service from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. Four passengers, who claimed they were members of the Pakistan People’s Party, commandeered the plane during the flight.

Below is the true story written by a former SIA steward who was on the hijacked flight. In the story, Toby told about his anguish,fear and close brush with death. He described the awful feelings of not acceding to his wife’s simple desire of having a new washing machine and a Loius Vittion bag just before his “impending death”. In it, he also told us how Sahid and his men (the hijackers) were killed by the braveS’pore commandos….

1991, March 26…Part One

Its another dreadful day for me as its the four sectors turn today…worst off it a Pen/ KL.. but for bonus, the Chief whom was rostered for the flight was P. Cheong.. ..had work with him on the previous flight…P.Cheong is a very nice chief..always very supportive and encouraging towards crew….and the deep impression about him was he will be standing up in the briefing room and going round extending his hand to all the crew and introducing himself….unlike most senior crew whom will sit there like a Toa pei kong and awaits all the crew to do so…such simple gesture always make a better day, he was just so humble and down to earth.

Looking back…today is my first month in the Airbus fleet after being in the Jumbo fleet for a year..(for those whom are new or non crew , we use to begin with either the long haul flights before we are transfer to regional flights or vice versa, then we use to call Jumbo crew or Airbus crew)..well, being in the Airbus fleet is kind of different feeling….crew in Jumbo tends to be so on the ball and company man….everything black and white….try to bitch and compete with one another…and often have grouping…..ayah tell you more next time…

As a newbie in the Airbus….jus felt like a small family…cos you will get to fly with the same people quite often, and everyone in the Airbus is always so helpful and friendly….PCheong is one of them..

And now….back to the story which has change my life…

We begin our flight with 10 crew doing the Sin/Pen/Sin…and before we realise it , two sectors were gone…there was a change of aircraft and so there was a crew whom is going home as we only need nine crew for KL…I could remember she was a Indian LSS (leading stewardess) but couldn’t remember her name…..well anyway…dun think is nice to mention any names in this story. So she was the lucky one, we said good bye to her before we had to rush to the other aircraft which was park distance away..but all the crew were in high spirits cos it jus two more sectors away and we are going home. There were crew meal catered but I was just thinking of having a Mac meal after the flight….hmm…a chicken burger meal will be good…

The flight went on well, of cos there were nothing to serve except for coffee and tea…quick quick and we are done…

EX KL:…flight was somehow delayed…captain came on PA addressing that we are expecting four more pax and we should be on our way….stomach was getting hungry and jus cant wait to have my Mac meal when we return to Singapore..

Finally the four pax boarded and we are all set to go……and the four Indian pax were ther nightmare that no one on the flight expected…flight took off after much delay and the seat belt sign were off before we start to run down the aisle to prepare for the drink service…being the most junior, I was working at AFT galley…or back galley…GLF was my LS and together with 2 other senior girls. As the aircraft stabilised, we were serving the pax a drink…a lady ask me if she could have a glass of warm milk as she was not feeling very well….ayah…have to heat up the milk then…

Back in the galley, heating up the milk…from the corner of my eyes saw four Indian pax seems to be looking for the toilet…pointed out to them where is located and to my surprise, two went into the each toilet…..wow…toilet must also go together…these idiots must be drunk at such early hours…

Getting ready to serve the warm milk….the four Indain pax came out of the toilet…with items holding in their hands….and shouted…”HIJACK HIJACK…this is a HIJACK…stay where you are”…..gosh..they must be really drunk……hijack on SQ…you must be crazy….confirm drunks……I was not really bothered with their shouts…in return, I smile at them and said…..”Sirs ,would you like to return to your seats”…..you probably will be laughing at my response but if you were to be on board…you may react the same I do….drunkards …trying to hijack SQ….way out of your mind…….my smile didn’t last long until I realise that punches has already landed on my stomach and face…..kicks and I was fell to the back of the galley.

Part 2…..Denial

I was calling out in pain and disbelieve that its a hijack…gosh what am i going to do…is this for real….whats going to happen next…..and most of all ..WHY ME…..there were many questions running thru my mind….are these for real…..it cant be…not on SQ and Singapore…are the bombs real?….what did they want….again…WHY ME…..and why not those assholes that always give crew a hard time…….

The four hijackers were from Pakistan and they soon took control of the aircraft in mid air, though they were shouting thru the cabin and showing their so call bombs held high in their hands…there were no chaos or panic from the passengers, i guess all the pax think like me…they must be drunk…

Situation was very tense at that moment, the shouting goes on….by now all the crew has been gathered at the back of the galley where i was…P.Cheong was obvious being hit on the face as we could see the red marks left by a punch or a slap…we didn’t spoke…but the exchange on the eye could jus feel the fear in us and we jus have to stay calm..

The leader..Sahit..(the name can never erase from my memory). Has been shouting loudly throughout the cabin…”stay where you are, dun move, u are my brothers and sisters, we will not harm you, follow what i tell you and you be ok!!”…..jus thought these were some assuring words that we are safe…..and it was not..

Getting back on myself…the fear has been running thru me and my heart jus beat so fast as if i was running a sprint..we didn’t dare to utter a word, PCheong give us a hand signal to stay cool….a nice gesture ….but tell u all….it scares the shit out ok……

The leader ordered the aircraft fly straight to Sydney….”WE will go to Sydney…no stop in Sinagpore…” he shouted….or we will blow up the plane…..”….”there will not be enough fuel” i said, and PCheong tries to tell them in a calm matter…another slap on his face by the leader and i could see his eyes jus turn red….not so much of the pain…jus the fear of death that is drawing nearer…

I took a glance at the claimed “explosive” that they were holding….four canisters each, two on each hand..was it real?…..well the papers says its fire crackers…..screw them for saying that it dummy and fire crackers. And for those who think that they hijack the aircraft with cutlery knifes….those are C4 plastic explosive with a safety fuse of about 30 cm….which means we have 30 seconds to run should they ignite it.(safety fuse burns one CM per sec)….for those whom had served the army might know wat is C4……for me…i was trained in demolition….i was with the demo team in the army….would i make a mistake with it….i whispered PCheong…30 sec….tats all we have if they ignite…PCheong nodded…and gave a reluctant smile and said…”stay cool…we will be ok….”

Part 3….. Terror on ground

Capt S. Lim had somehow by now realised that the plane had been taken over by the four Pakistani..and the cockpit door is now locked..the only way of communication with the cockpit was only thru the handset at Dr 3 Left…the leader Sahit is now furious and had also hit the other GS working in first class. BTan..the slap mark on the face was obvious… PCheong tries again to tell the leader that is no way we could fly to Sydney without stopping to refuel..the aircraft was on the point of descent..Capt has to make the decision…Sahit was getting impatience and was all ready to blow up the aircraft….oh gosh…is this the way we end….am i going to die without a fight….i prayed that we land in Singapore…at least i know that there will be help and hope for rescue….if we abort the landing…we wont have enough fuel to fly and will end up into the sea…..situation crucial….

7.45 pm…we could feel the aircraft is descending…..jus dun know where we are….are we turning back to KL or heading towards Singapore or what did the hijackers spoke to captain and agreed upon……nobody knew….at the back galley, all the crew gathered…i could see the fear in each and everyone of us…..the stewardess on the flight were H.Koh, MY., Ade…FS BT, Ls GLF and PCheong…we didn’t spoke and we could only have our prayers at the back of our mind…i must say, the stewardess were well treated comparing to the guys….at the back of my head, i jus recall what a normal scenario would be on a hijack which we watch in any movie….pax will be separated into nationalities, woman & children…etc….never would i think that the crew would be harm… so for the least i could console myself…everything will be ok…

Leader Sahit manage to spoke to the Capt and is agree that we will land in Singapore……even before the news was told to us…we have landed….standing in the galley holding each other, with the meal carts in the centre of the aisle….it was pitch dark outside and the aircraft continued to taxi for a distance…and stopped…

8.05 pm..the terror had began….Sahit and his man are now in full control of the aircraft….we were guarded by another Pakistani…well, think he is about mid 20s…soft spoken and spoke with simple English…with the canisters in his hand and a lighter on the other….he told us everything will be ok….”you are my brothers & sisters…we will not harm you….you will be ok”..he assured…

Its wasn’t long that Sahit & his other man can back to the galley and started to shout, this time, they became more violent hitting and pushing PCheong ….the other guy (lets call him Mohd, if i can remember)took out a white powdered packet and start pouring into a cup….adding water to it….he push a cup to BTan…and ordered him to drink down at the point of his knife…..FYI…those cutlery knifes that was mention on the papers didn’t exists…..is a survival knife…like those use by Rambo…..BTan followed the order…Mohd took another cup, with the white powder….he turned on the hot water spur instead…..with the piping hot water and white powder, he give the cup to GLF, the LS….GLF tried to drink , at the same time to split it out telling him the water was too hot…so he just drink and split out at the same time while Mohd was not watching….

It wasn’t long before the white powdered stuff took action…..BTan was looking faintish and i could see his eyeball was rolling back…before long…he was too soft to be standing on his feet and fell on the floor, GLF didn’t drink much and was still feeling ok…

9.46 pm:

There were silence in the cabin and we jus didn’t know where we were(on the runway), the only voice that was heard were the voices from Sahit and his man…we could only stay close to each other and do our prayers….with the young Pakistani, still waving the canister in front of the galley and every ready to ignite the explosives…

Sahit came back to the galley and i could see that he was really mad this time….he tried to use the handset at Dr3 left….unable to talk on the phone with the Capt( well, he doesn’t know how to operate the phone) got really piss….he slammed and kick the phone and the whole handset broke into pieces…

Coming to the galley, he pointed at BTan and shouted…..’Hey.You! follow me”…BTan was too weak to stand on his feet…he was being dragged and push by Mohd…there were kicking and shouting at the same time and could be heard as they move towards the front of the aircraft( First Class cabin)..we were paranoid, but yet there were nothing we could do, we could only look down on the galley floor and hope that BTan will be safe..Sahit is back soon and pointed at PCHeong….”U follow me……”…and gosh…whats happening…we uttered in fear..jus hope that they keep their promise and will not harm the crew or anyone

Part 4…. News of Death

There was a huge commotion in the front cabin and we could hear the aircraft door was being open, noise of the engine filled the silence in the cabin for a minute or two…what’s happening and why the aircraft door was being opened?……the door soon closed and it was silence in the cabin again…..i could hear the footsteps of Sahit and his man walking back to where we were…..and with an apologetic tone, he broke the news” i am sorry, i have killed your friend”…..”oh shit…that cant be true…they are not suppose to harm the crew…they promised ….and why are they doing this….would they hide him in the toilet?”..fear and disbelieve , suspense…….i jus don’t know how to describe…or in short words….it scares the shit out of everyone………frankly..for those who are not crew and reading this story…let me tell you from the bottom of my heart that i wasn’t really concern what has happen to the pax…but was more worried about my fellow colleague,…maybe it is the first time we flown together with some of them…but the fellow crew were jus like a part of the family…

What’s next?..GLF and myself starred at each other..lost of words…

2030 hrs:

By now, its about 3 hours since we left KL and the beginning of the hijack, many of the pax are requesting to go to the toilet….Sahit and his man has now organise themselves, with Sahid and Mohd running up and down between the cockpit and the cabin, the other two man were seen looking after the pax. One was standing in the Business class (Facing EY) where all the pax had now gathered in the same cabin. The younger one is now standing at the back galley…Sahit shouted” who go toilet…one at a time”..some pax began to stood up…in a orderly manner…they went to the toilet one at a time..

2300 hrs:

There were no food catered for this flight and the only thing we had were jus juices and coffee….that’s why, where the hell they get the cutlery knifes to hijack the aircraft…..unless they were seated in first class where Satays were serve….pax were feeling hungry and tired by now…Sahit told the stewardess……”go serve drink….”….and gosh….we still have to do drink service while being hijack….this part was never featured in the papers…….SQ standards….excellent service regardless what’s the situation…..

2350 hrs:

Its close to midnight…dun know what the hell is happening..but i do know that the pax and everyone of us are tired….my Mac meal…i am hungry…many of the pax were feeling cold…and now Sahit and his man ordered us to distribute out the blankets…what a service yah..as we were giving out the blankets in the cabin….most pax would stared at us hoping that we are able to provide some answers or assurance…..nobody dare to say anything nor whisper… ..the girls still goes out with their smiles….a great way to fly.

Part 5……The Private Conversation

0023 hrs (27 March 1991)
GLF and i were dying for a cigarette, i had my last stick in Pen and it had been hours since…..the younger hijacker was puffing away at the front of the galley..(by now only GLF, myself were at the back galley)….then he ask…”you smoke?”……i said “yes”…he smiled like an old friend that has not met for a long time and said”smoke…smoke…u smoke ok”..smoke…yah…why not…sooner or later we all going to die…why not jus do what i wanna do….i took out a stick and offered GLF the other..and this is the first time we smoke in the galley and openly….never felt so good about smoking…not that i am trying to promote smoking, but i guess every smoker would agree with me in that kind of situation, or for those non smoker…you may jus want to do one last thing before you die and what will it be…well for at least we get to do want we wanted to do before dying……GLF had a puff and turn to me and said” Ba..this is the first time i do flight with you…..lets hope is not the last” i could see the despair in his eyes but we could only starred at each other…..my eyes turned red but yet holding on to the tears…………….
Like in any other hijacking movie…the negotiation teams has now step in to speak with the hijackers…we had come to the stage of acceptance….we just have to see what we could do or happen next…and of still wondering what had happen to BTan….is he still alive or ?…the girls were now seated in the cabin with the pax…leaving GLF and myself at the back of the galley…PCheong was in the first class cabin….probably with Sahit and captain communicating with the negotiation team..
Sahid demanded the release of some political prisoners and demand to speak to Benazir Butto, which he claimed that what he did was for her….the younger hijacker standing at the front of the galley looks tired…..and he began to speak …”my brother & sister..u are my good friend”……though we his limited English…we were still able to understand each other…..”where are you from” i asked….”me Pakistan……i hate Pakistan….no good..”….“you have family?’ i asked…”yes…one brother..one sister..”he replied…”you married?”..”No..my country poor…girls don’t like me cos i am poor…….but after , my family ok”he replied with a smile and hope on his face…i was puzzled and ask”why?”….”after, my family have money, they give my family money”…oh gosh…could you believe that a young man jus given up his life for money and for a better living of his family…..jus didn’t understand how he would believe that by doing this he could give his family a better life…or anyone could just give up their life in the name of G..,…and this could be understood why people would blew themselves up…..
“so you go back to Pakistan after this?”.though a stupid question cos we may not even leave the aircraft alive..”no, no Pakistan….they will kill me” he exclaimed…”then, where you go”….i asked..”Sydney”…he sounded happy and excited…”why Sydney?…you have friend?”i dig on..’no friend in Sydney..but good place”..”they have many people, black white brown, all live together”..he replied..”but in Singapore, we have Chinese, Malay, Indian and many others, we live happily together, no problem.”.i told him..”is it…this is nice…i come Singapore”..he replied like a little child whom jus receive his dolly as a reward…..and i guess he did stayed on in Singapore after all..
Frankly, i shall say that this young chap was naive and innocent…i don’t really think that he was those ruthless terrorist or extremist..he was just being influenced….. our conversation continued with the most sensitive issues….”so, how you bring bomb to plane?”..the million dollar question…and he replied confidently with a big smile… ”In _ _, have money, everything is ok”that was the most well spoken English sentence ….and probably this explain how the explosives were brought into the aircraft……..and why they went into the toilet two at a time.

Part 6…. Second Death News

0140 hrs:

I went to the toilet and took a chance to peep into the cabin where all the passengers were..everything seems normal and by now most of the pax were sleeping…like i say, all the pax and the stewardess were rather well treated…drinks, blankets and allow to go to toilet…it doesn’t seems like they were being hijacked.

Sitting on the floor of the back galley, GFL and myself could only tucked ourselves below the galley and into the empty areas where the meal cart were normally loaded (no meal cart were loaded for KL sector)PCheong, look tired and weary, was with us guarded by the same young chap…… there was another hijacker whom i hardly mention, he was around mid 30’s, didn’t hear him spoke a word…big belly and had ‘rabbit teeth’, that was as much i could remember about him…

0240 hrs:

There was a sudden noise of the aircraft engine and soon the aircraft began to taxi…we didn’t know what was happening…are we preparing to take off again? And where are we flying to?…dont remember that we did any refuelling ….there were many other questions ran thru my mind…

The aircraft taxied about 15 mins and soon stopped, looking out of the little window at Dr3 didn’t give a clue as it was complete darkness outside..

The peace didn’t last long, the furious Sahit is now back for more, there were shouting and arguments between him and his second man Mohd.. ..they were arguing with each other in their language, and it was obvious that Sahit was still in control. Coming into the galley, Sahit shouted at PCheong..”you! follow me!”…that i guess was the scariest sentence to hear. PCheong stood up, and was pushed further by Mohd. He walked reluctantly between Sahit and Mohd towards the front of the cabin….and he probably knew what’s going to happen…and that was the last time i saw him on board…..the noise from outside broke the silence in the cabin again and the aircraft door was being open..for a minute or two…then silence again….the hijacker by now had learn to operate the doors…

Sahit came back to the back of the galley and repeat the same sentence…”i am sorry, i have killed another of your friend”….i must admit that these sentence chilled my spin and GLF and myself were in fear….what actually happened to BTan and PCheong…we didn’t know…are they dead…and who will be next.?……………………………….i pray for their safety..

Part 7…… I am Next

0355 hrs:

It had been 8 hours thru this ordeal and it has come to a stage where we cant feel for anything anymore. The mysteries of our missing colleagues, the waiting and constant shouting, kicks and abuse from the hijackers were taking a toll on us. GLF and myself were like sitting ducks at the back of the galley…waiting to be slaughter….we were feeling the pressure and just wish that this whole thing could just end soon…be it we all are going to live or die…just make it quick…..the feeling of waiting to for death sucks but i just cant help feeling that way, we didn’t know what is going to happen and what is next..it was all question marks in the head….suddenly…the fear of death occupied my thoughts and not for long my biggest fear arrived………i am next..

There had been silence throughout the cabin for a while, Sahit and Mohd were in the cockpit area while the “bunny teeth” guy was standing in front of the Business class cabin while the younger chap position himself at the back of the aircraft…Mohd had help himself with some whisky from the first class cabin and was happily holding on to the bottle in his hand. The smell of alcohol from his breath was distinctive enough thru the cabin as he walked..with the Rambo knife in the other, he was the most violent hijacker of the pack…..suddenly, there were some arguments in the front cabin and i could hear the heavy footsteps running down the aisle and towards the back of the galley………and this time round, without hesitation, he held me up by pulling the front of my shirt and push me hard against the wall of the toilet, the bang was hard enough to wake some of the pax up whom were sleeping….waving his knife..he shouted…”open open!” pointing at Dr 3 Left…..

i switched the door operating mood to Manual and disarm the slide (for those whom are non crew, if the door is open from inside when door is armed, the emergency escape slide will inflate).i push open Dr3 left and immediately, Mohd held me from the back and his knife around my neck…”is this the end”….i was standing at the edge of the door….i could only hear my heart beat pounding so fast..it was pitch dark, i didn’t know how high it was nor is there any rescue team below..i panic..

the only thing that was running thru my mind was how could i break fall..(what was taught in my army days)…is this the end of my life….one more step and i will be out….or one more slice of his knife thru my neck would be the end of me, will i be left bleeding on the tarmac…this is it…i prayed..

Mohd was still holding on to me when Sahit appeared, they exchange heated words and was shouting at each other in their language….and finally..Sahit shouted…”close the door”…i received a kick on my butt sending me straight back to the galley…..

GLF asked” Ba ..What happen?”…..almost breaking down in tears…i said”i am very afraid”..GLF put his hands over my shoulder and said” we will be ok Ba”…i cried in silence…

i began to talk to myself….reflecting on every single thing that had happen in my life….looking back ….my family, my wife…mom…dad…sister..brother…and the dogs at home…my friends and things that i always wanted to do but always give myself every excuse not to do…

I was happily married to a lovely woman, she was also an Ex crew….we didn’t met in the airline..in fact her last day with SQ was my first day in training…..back in Paya Lebar days….and what’s going to happen to her…a widow at a young age…

Mum has always tell me that she wanted a new washing machine and fridge, i promise her that i will buy one when i return to Jumbo flights….i have always wanted a LV bag, like most senior crew…and i have every excuse not to buy one to pamper myself…it cost $1040 at that time and i thought i dont need a expensive bag…….my wife always wanted to go for a holiday..and there are always reason for not going, just to spent time together and bring her joy happiness……i promise myself that if i survive this …i will fulfil their wishes and also buy myself that LV bag.

Part 8….Everyone is going home….except me..

0500 hrs:

There were noise outside the aircraft…some banging sound and trucks had came near to the aircraft…sounded like a refuelling truck…

Till this stage, we still didn’t know what was going to happen…i was fearful that if the plane had been refuel, where will we be flying to…but i was still pinning on hope that we remain on ground, and a rescue may be stage…its pass 5 in the morning….where are our guys.(Armed Forces)…we always do dawn attack….first light…

The truck had now move away from the aircraft which i thought the hijackers had already got what they wanted….fuel….in exchange?..

Sahit appeared in the back galley with a very victorious tone and said…”One more fuel truck…we have fuel…..and after the plane have fuel…ALL MAN, WOMAN,CHILDREN WILL BE RELEASE AND GO HOME”……”WOW….thank god…its over…we are safe”…these words were in my heart before the next sentence…”EVERYBODY WILL GO HOME….YOU AND YOU WILL FOLLOW ME AND CAPTAIN TO SYDNEY”…..pointing at me and GLS………i could not believe what i have just heard….crying out loud….WHY ME!…..my heart jus shattered…feelings went dead…”this is not fair…everybody will be release and go home…and if we takes off…we will probably be shot down by a missile and declare as plane crash into sea…”..Death filled the air between GLS and me…”i am going to die…and die because of these bastards whom take my life”..angry…desperate…panic…fear…death..i cried in silence….

The fear of death…..if you were to ask me…i say “yes”..i fear death not because it is a painful thing….but i fear death because of leaving responsibilities behind….wishes unfulfilled …let me share with you ….if you have only next 24 hours to live….what will you do?…i don’t think anyone will go back to office to finish up their reports…and thinking about work that is not done……its your love ones and family that you will want to spent the time most..don’t take for granted that they will always be there…..come the day if you live or die is being decided by someone else, you will know what i am taking about.. ……the message that i will like to deliver in this story…would it be difficult for you to give your parents a call today?….bring them out for a meal even you know that they always nags?….would it be difficult to call your love ones and tell them you love them?…and maybe call the person you hated most to make up?…dont wait till is too late….during the hijack…there wasn’t any mobile phones…..and how desperate i was wanting to let my wife know that i love her and she is the greatest woman….and tell mum that i love her despite her daily nags……i didn’t have the luxury of modern technology…..i have to revert to the ancient ways…..writing letters……

There wasn’t any paper or note pad available in the galley, let me tell you that the only paper that was big enough to write something were the AO forms (Aircraft Order Forms, these are forms we use to order the dry stores and amenities)…with a heavy heart…i wrote two letters…One for my mum and the other for my wife…..

To Mum:

I am sorry that I had never been a good son, as much as i tried to be, I am always getting into trouble. But you are always there and forgive me, i thank you for bringing me up all these years and you have suffered in silence, but yet you have never complaint. i wish that i would be able to take good care of you soon with this job of mine, but i don’t think i can now..i last wish to be able tell you personally “ i love you Mum and in my next life…i still want to be your son”…

To my wife:

My dearest M –, i have been blessed to have you as my wife, there is still a lot more things that i want to do with you for the rest of my life, and there are so many unfulfilled things that we have not done..i want to thank you for always being there for me and always showered me with all your love, i only wish i could do it better….for now, i only want to tell you that “i love you”..as for you, please don’t wait for me shall i not return, you are still young, please do not stay a widow for me…just remember that we had share good times together and our love will always remain in my heart..

Dear readers, i am not sure how you feel about this, but let me tell you that i just couldn’t control my tears writing these words again……and i tell you that it was a F— type feeling writing your last words to your love ones……………………………………

i handled these letters to Fss MY and said” should you leave the aircraft before me, please hand these letters to my family”…she nodded her head, didn’t say a word…and i guess she knew how i felt and what was about to happen.

Part 9…..The Rescue
0540 hrs:

There were trucks outside the aircraft again and some sort of refuelling going on…..i was in a stage of depression….looking down on the galley floor, crying in silence….thinking of my family and what is going to happen to them……….i pray for the only last hope….”where are the guys? “ (the rescue team form SAF)…. i could only imagine how the rescue would be stage….i mean for anyone that has serve the army….you will know what the SAF has…..time is running out…

The situation in the cabin has become so tense……the pressure is on..Sahit and his men were running up and down the aisle between the cockpit and the cabin…constantly shouting in their language as though they are preparing to blow up the aircraft….then he turned to us and shouted…..go sit there!”……GLF and myself had been stuck in our little galley for the last 8 hours, somehow i felt a sense of relieve to be seated in the cabin with all the pax……maybe is the presence of everyone…..i was seated alone in the centre seat, three rows from the AFT galley…. ..across the right aisle on a window seat, a Caucasian man looked and hope i could give him some indication or something, an Asian man seated on the left aisle did the same….i gave a reluctant smile and a hand gesture to stay cool and we are ok……..for the fact…i don’t know what the hell is going to happen, i was just as scare and fearful as they are…….but i was tired, physically and mentally….i jus wanna to close my eyes……

0620 hrs

“Close all windows!!!” Sahit and his man shouted as they walked along the aisle in a hurry….”No toilet …all sit” he ordered……” We are going to take off” he shouted across the cabin……i guess this was the biggest mistake they made…thinking that by pulling down the window shades, people outside won’t be able to see what was going on….and having all pax seated and themselves standing was the next mistake they made, these actions had resulted in giving the rescue team the Q for action…

I took a look at my watch…0630am….”its sunrise and where the hell are you”….I talked to myself…for those still wondering who the hell are all these guys i am referring to…they are the SOF..(Special Operational Force) many of us believed and the public were told that the commandos were the one that stage the rescue….little known to the public until 1997 the government recognised their existence. The SOF had been around since 1984..these were elite soldiers from different units…Commandos, Guards, Police force and others…..and for now, we see a new unit call the STAR by the police force……similar to those in Hong Kong movie…and those in Navy Seals……dressed in black and equipped with MP5s…etc… ….

In case you want to have a better idea what i am talking about check out this web http://www.spf.gov.sg/sites/star/index.htm

0639 hrs

Desperation…i looked at my watch again…..at this moment, all the passengers were seated, only the hijackers were standing….the younger hijacker was standing on the left aisle of the business class cabin over looking everyone, and i presumed that the other three were in the first class cabin or the cockpit……..

BOOM!!!!…a stun grenade exploded in the cabin and smoke filled the air, from the corner of my eyes…man in black rolled in from Dr3 left and right…..fast as lighting….

“Heads down!! Heads down!!” they shouted….i took cover below the seats…gun shots were fired with silencer attached, “Go..Go Go..Go…Go” they ran thru the cabin within seconds…the doors of the toilets were sprayed with bullets before they were kicked down and declare cleared…………before i could take a breath……..its all over….i would say it was anything less than a minute. The guys from the SOF had stormed the aircraft for the rescue…”thank god…game over” these are the words i said to myself…..”Cleared!”..the man reported as the smoke in the cabin began to cleared and settled …

“Heads down..Heads down! Hands behind your head…Hands behind your head….do not move!!”Shouted the commander..

“Ladies & gentlemen…we are from the Singapore Armed Forces, we are here to rescue you, you are now safe, please follow our instructions, do not move until we tell you to do so…”..the commander continued……I felt a sense of relieve hearing those words.

“With your hands behind your head, please sit up straight, do not move until we tell you to do so” he warned..

The cabin was filled with man in black; there were at least 20 of them heavily armed, with a full face ski mask where only the eyes and the mouth could be seen. Armed with MP5s sub machine guns and pistol….the man held their guns pointing at each and every pax…i had a pistol pointing at my head…and was held by an Indian SOF guy….at the front of the cabin was a man in a ski mask, but not in uniform, he was wearing a blue T shirt and a pair of jeans..the MP5 seem like a toy gun to him with his chunk of biceps…he seems to be the commanding officer and was giving out instructions to his man.

“Are you the crew?” ask the Indian SOF guy, still having the pistol pointing at my head..”Yes”..i said..another stewardess was identified by the SOF and was ask to follow them…a guy with his MP5 in the front, stewardess in the middle and another holding a pistol, they were walking behind each other..at the same time asking the stewardess “ Any familiar faces….any familiar faces?”….this is not the time to recognise your relatives if they are on board…but is a procedure to identify any hidden hijacker among the passengers….normally known as a “sleeper”….the ‘sleeper’ are the one hidden in the passenger and is a backup should the main cast fails…..

The stewardess walked thru the aircraft from front to the back twice…with the guys still holding on to their guns……and finally the commander declared..” All cleared!”

What a relieve and we are safe….there were three questions up in my mind, “What the hell took you guys so long, are all the hijackers dead, and where is BTan and PCheong”…the first two question wont that important to me now, but i feared the worst and just hope that BTan & PCheong are ok….the guys from SOF proceed with the evacuation of the pax..they opened all the doors on the aircraft …..”Fiss..ss…” all the emergency slides were deployed within seconds….and i could feel the cold morning breeze and sunlight coming into the cabin….it is the air of FREEDOM!

Part 10…..

0710 hrs:

The ability to enjoy freedom was indescribable feeling….we survive and alive ….from the verge of death…it was so good to be breathing and being free again, and not letting anyone decide whether you live or die….

The slides were deployed and in an orderly manner, i slide down thru Dr2 right with the rest of the pax. Policemen were all around and were more than happy to receive the pax and the stewardess with their kebayas exposed in the midst of siding down…what a sight and a little bonus for our law enforcement unit whom had been waiting patiently thru the night.

We were than gathered around the tarmac. They did a head count, man and woman were separated to tally up the numbers. This was the time Capt Lim and myself met again..(the last time was the beginning of the flight when he came by to greet all the crew) He gave a smile and a pat on my shoulder and was then escorted by an inspector. A police inspector soon came by and said” are you the crew? Please follow me..”… GLS and I were separated from the rest of the pax and stewardess. We got into a car and were driven away from the scene….

“Do you know where are the other two crew?”..I asked anxiously, “they are ok and safe” replied the inspector, don’t worry about them”..that was probably the most delightful answer and it was a heavy weight taken away my heart and I just felt relieved….i did not ask further and soon the car had left the runway area, thru some underground tunnel and out again…..

The car stopped at a lift landing and we alighted with the inspector, followed him into a lift before he said” I know you guys are very tired, we just need some finer details of the event and you are free to go”……and this place is no other than the Air Traffic Control tower……..this was my first time in life to visit the tower…

We were escorted into the briefing room, guess all the big guns were there,…i mean from the Airline, government, the SAF, police and etc….a familiar face appeared at the side of the room..Capt Lim and FO, ….he came over to us and said” Well done guys….well done”..he looked weary and tired..and the blood stain on the shoulder at the back of his uniform was obvious…”Are you ok?” i asked, pointing at the blood stain…he said” I am ok, those are the bastards and not mine “he replied with much anger and hatred….

The room was filled with probably some high ranking government personnel that were eager to find out more details about the hijack….but i guess i threw in the first question that stunned everyone and put them to ease……”Anybody has a cigarette?..i asked…”yes”…and there were at least 6 packets on the table of different brands instantly…”may i have a cigarette?”…everyone said ”yes !!…please go ahead”..they waited for us to finish the stick of cigarette, enjoy the puffs before they make their enquiry….for security and the safety of everyone…i shall not disclose what i saw up on the tower….the equipments and video…etc….but i could only say …it was impressive…… and never knew such hi tech equipments exists……………..

The session lasted about 30 minutes, the same inspector was asked to escort us back to the Cabin Crew Control, without clearing thru the customs to avoid the public. On the way down, i realised that my jacket and crew pass were still on board….”I will need my crew pass, jacket and bag which is on board the plane, how can I collect it?”i asked..”I sent you back to the aircraft” said the inspector…..We drove thru the underground tunnel and we could see the aircraft park before us, policemen cordon off the area and blue and white tapes surrounded the vicinity like those you see in CSI….Escorted by the inspector, I walked up the steps with a mixed feeling….could you just imagine an hour ago, i was still wondering if i would survive…….GLF and I boarded the aircraft thru Dr3 Right…

The sight of the cabin was in a terrible mess, like some kind of hurricane just swept thru, blankets, cups, bags, shoes, and everything was all over the place….”everything is untouched” said the Inspector…i walked towards the back of the galley and picked up my bag, jacket with my crew pass..and took another look at the little galley that i spent my last 10 hours in……on the way out, my curiosity kicked in and i asked the Inspector “where are the dead bodies?”..”there is one in middle and three in the cockpit” he replied”may I take a look?” I asked “Sure, why? But aren’t you afraid? I think is quite messy..”..he replied ..”I wanna to give those bastards a few kicks for putting me thru all these “I replied jokingly and walked slowly towards the Business class cabin……

On the left aisle, there laid the young chap with the head facing up soaked in a pool of blood, there were bullet holes almost everywhere around him, blood stains went as high as the top of the ceiling and on the side walls of the toilet. There were at least 20 bullet holes on his body if i could recall, but definitely he died of a terrible death. “This is bad” i thought as i walk towards the front of the aircraft hoping to get a glimpse of the rest of the dead bodies.

As i turn left into the first class galley……gosh…it was the most disturbing and graphic sight that resulted me for not being able to eat any food for the next two days.

There, Sahit’s dead body laid in a pool of blood, half of the body was outside the cockpit with the head facing up and pointing towards the first class galley, with the other half of the body still in the cockpit. A closer look, his face was totally disfigured, the eyeballs had sunken into the eye sockets, there were 5 bullet holes thru his forehead, leaving his skull exposed from the penetrations of the bullets and everything inside the head were seen oozing out in bits and pieces…..i really can’t think of anything other words to describe what i saw, but it was disgusting and scary, not even to talk about giving a kick at the dead body. And the other two..I didn’t even dare to take a peep.

But the mystery goes….were all the four hijackers shot dead on the spot? I will share with you in the next part, so stay tune……………………………………….

Part 11….

9V STP was the aircraft that suffered many bullet holes and four dead Pakistani on board

GLF and I hopped back into the car again after the disgusting sight, it has been 18 hours thru and i have not eaten anything yet…and i did not had anything for the next 2 days……..we were soon back into T2, straight into the basement taxi stand.

Walking back into the Crew Control Centre, we were received with a warm welcome by all the Executives (CCEs) whom had been waiting anxiously. There; i saw my wife, mum and sister sitting at one corner of the room….i gave my wife and mum a big hug and kiss…totally ignoring the presence of the others. We had another short briefing with the CCEs before we were allow to go home….this was the first time that i felt that the company was great in taking care of the crew’s welfare……DREAM ON!!!…..its was only the surface……and i shall share with you guys following thru the story..

I got home about 11am and went straight into bed….later i was told that the girls; whom were separated from us after the rescue only cleared the custom about 4pm together with all the pax. It must have been a hard time for them trying to avoid the media..

The following day, i visited PCheong at SGH, he was nicely settled in a one bedded room with his wife Cynthia looking after him by the bed(hope i remembered the name correctly) I was very glad to see him again and knowing that he is doing fine. With an elbow fractured and his right arm in a cast; he gave a big smile. i could felt the sense of relive in his eyes…the joy and happiness easily expressed on his face…some of the girls were there too, and of course it was a happy family moment for all of us….however we were not able to visit BTan as he was still under intensive care…..

I shared the moment and sights about the dead bodies on board with the girls, telling them how horrified the sight was and i didn’t had anything to eat since….to my surprise…the stewardess did not see any dead body in the business class cabin though she had walk thru the cabin twice with the SOF guys..

So, were all the hijackers shot dead on the spot?..but what i saw and what the stewardess saw didn’t match at all, i was puzzled………..

Months later, i manage to dig up some information from a friend (SOF) whom was there for the rescue..The guys did many rounds of mock up rehearsal before the actual one, and unfortunately one of them fell from the ladder and was badly injured. Later there was news about him paralysed from waist down…. However; the order was given to storm the aircraft, they were told to kill all hijackers. They are willing to sacrifices 15% of the passengers including the crew; and that will regard as a success……this news bought fear and shock to me after listening to it…and i could imagine if i or anyone standing up with the hijackers…..and will sure to see holes thru my head….well, were all shot dead on the spot like what the papers said ??….NO..Sahit, Mohd & the ‘Bunny teeth’ guy were shot dead in the cockpit, the young chap was caught alive and held gun point inside the toilet…they had to eliminate him straight after the passengers left the aircraft…Reason?? Simple..they just do not want another aircraft being hijack and ask the release of this guy…further to that ;no interrogation required as the dead man can’t speak..putting it as a nice closure that nobody will be held responsible for helping the hijackers load up their bombs…..well, politically….it was a wise move and everybody was happy…….

After the incident, we attended six dinners from various departments. And of cos the numerous interviews from the press, the government, the company and also friends and relatives that have not seen them for ages suddenly called up jus to find out the first hand news of what had happen. We were not allow to speak to the public and agree what the authorities wants the story to be..

The dinner held by the Pilots’ Associations at Westin hotel was the most memorable of all. Not because we received a wooden plaque for what we had went thru, but it was the recognition from each and every single soul in the ball room; they would stand up from their dinner table in their tuxedos and evening gowns to give us the applause as walk towards the stage. For once in my life…i felt great and appreciated…In comparison with all the fine dinners held by the Cabin Crew Division…sadly, we felt like idiots during the dinners..all the Executives were trying to claim their credit in front of the big boss, telling each and everyone how important their role was…boosting of what they did and obvious that without them; the rescue would not been a success…..jus a pack of boot licking people..most of the time we were left alone sitting in one corner of the dinner tables and watching them toasting their way with the champagne, wines and beers….simply because it was a big meal paid by the company……….

Part 12…the conclusion.

This is one part of the story that Capt Lim shared over the dinner table at Westin Hotel, it was the final 5 minutes before the SOF stormed the aircraft………………..

The situation was crucial and tense; the hijackers demanded the aircraft to be refuelled and threaten to kill the hostage in the next five minutes if the demands are not met. There were refuelling trucks around the aircraft but they were not there to do the refuelling. The fact, there were engineers on the trucks; they were instructed to cut off the fuel supply of the aircraft instead and making the aircraft immobilised. Capt Lim could understand that there would be a high chance that the rescue team would storm the aircraft any moment….and the clock ticked on…

Three minutes passed, Sahit gave the order to prepare for takeoff…..three hijackers were in the cockpit..Capt Lim looked at his cockpit control panel, he saw the aircraft doors were opened at the rear (Dr 3 L &R) and he knew the moment had come…within seconds, the doors at the front (Dr1 L&R) were opened as indicated on the screen…”Heads Down…Heads Down” the SOF shouted..Shots were fired…Capt Lim in split seconds got hold of the FO’s shoulder and bended over towards the control panels…a string of gun shots from the silencers were fired at closed range….bloods from the bodies of Sahit and his man spat thru their bodies from the penetrations of the bullets…”Sahid took at least ten shots thru his body” said Capt Lim…”and he was so determined to stand up again”..Capt Lim shouted” look!! He is still moving!!!”…the SOF guy took out a pistol and fired five shots thru his head at a brink of his eyes…..with that…it explained why he had five shots thru his head and laid dead in that pool of blood…..and the blood stain on Capt Lim’s uniform.

Coming back to the incident….. many of us by now; after 17 yrs would have know that PCheong and BTan survived….

BTan was unconscious when he was pushed out of the aircraft, thus he was not able to break fall and landed hard on the tarmac, he suffered a hairline fractured on his backbone around the lower back and had to be wheelchair bounded after discharged. He spent about 6 months in the hospital with the bills fully paid by the company……all seem so good and well taken care of, but not for long..

PChoeng suffered an elbow and ankle fracture on his landing, he was conscious and was able to provide the details of the hijackers to the authorities; thus giving them vital information before the rescue was stage..

After the hijack, company had took me off from all my flights and i was told to take as many days off as i want….only when i am ready than i shall report for work…..sounded so good yah….they even arrange counselling and psychiatrist shall i require..

I stayed at home for the next two days; with much disturbance calls from the press, friends and relatives. I was feeling stressed and decided to return to work….company was surprised with my request….i was then referred to higher CCE for approval, on the same token, i made a request for a Jumbo flight.(ONE LONG FLIGHT ONLY) so i could be away to avoid being hassle by the press…. R.Poon was in charge at that time and a straight “NO” was the reply….i was puzzled with the rejection and demand for an explanation…i was told that if company will to entertain my request;, the rest of the crew would do the same…i was furious, even if all the crew had the same request..Apart from 2 were hospitalised, cant they do anything for the 7 of us? That was as much the company would stretch for the crew….. On speaking to DCC; i was hoping to know if there is any form of token given to the crew as it would be normal for any American airline to make up a sum of compensation…No surprise is a NO for the reply…”it was unfortunate that such things happened, but it is what we call occupational hazards”. replied DCC…to all readers, if you were in my shoes..Would you be furious with the answer…we were paid $600 plus in 1990s for our basic and this is call occupation hazard pay!!…i reply to DCC..”if you were to be a deep sea diver, do you think you will be paid $600?…”

All the CCEs seemed so helpful and encouraging straight after the incident, like i say…it was all boot licking ass holes whom were trying to score points..when being approached behind closed doors…it’s a big NO for everything…damn to all…cabin crew are just expendable items…..you can get as many complimentary letters thru your flying career; but you only need ONE complaint letter to get you out of the job..that’s why the recruitment is getting so bad in response that they have to dig into places like India and Indonesia…or whatever country they can exploit on…and you will be surprise that girls who turn up at the interview every time are those rejected whom are diehard fans……so you think now the girls are prettier than before…do you think the standards have drop?…..take a walk at T3 today..you will know the answer……my point here is about the company, nothing against the Fss..

Months later, I met up with BTan in STC while attending my SEP. On his wheelchair, he was seen wheeling himself around the office area on the second floor.. …delivering documents to various departments….”Are you alright?” i asked “i am ok…what else can i do”..he replied with a depressing tone..”you will recover soon, don’t worry too much ok” I tried to console him..well, things didn’t seems so simple as it look, BTan is now grounded as he is unfit for flying, doctors had advised that he cannot carry heavy things due to his back injuries..so it will not be visible that BTan will fly again…so what’s next…from the company point..he is allow to stay in the office as a despatch or admin staff as long as he wants, all medical bill will still be borne by the company…with a condition that he will never be promoted..not because he didn’t have experience, but because he is not a grad…so sad and frustrated to know the reality, but its true..at a later stage, BTan could not take it anymore, company offered him a good bye hand shake with 150k..cos they don’t see any reasons to pay for his medical bill anymore….simple..BTan had already lost his value in the company….i last heard that he went for further studies…

PCheong was promoted to IFS soon after, but i must agree that he well deserved it, GLF resigned after the incident and started out his business in Maid Agency, he was active in the Manpower Industry and also a member of the trade union. All the girls resigned soon after and they were back in their home land Malaysia. As for me, i flew for another six years before i resigned to join the Gaming industry in 1996…..

On this note, i have come to the end of my story, i wish to express my thanks to all the cabin crew that had flown with me before and had made my flying career a memorable one. And i hope; by sharing my story, we will all learn to treasure and cherish our love ones even more..

My motto in life: Yesterday was a memory; Tomorrow is what we look forward; cherish and treasure what you have today.

Thank you for following thru, i wish you all beauty, wealth and most important.. Good Health…

TOBY..12 Sept 200?