London, March 27 (IANS) Michel Bacos, Air France captain hailed as a hero for refusing to abandon his passengers when Palestinian and German hijackers seized the plane in 1976, died in Nice (France). He was 95.
Awarded the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest civilian order of merit, Bacos had said as captain “it would be impossible for me to leave my passengers, unimaginable”, the BBC reported on Wednesday.
Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi said: “Michel was a hero. By bravely refusing to give in to anti-Semitism and barbarity, he brought honour to France.”
The youngest of the hijack survivors, Benny Davidson, said Bacos was a role model and had taken a leading position on behalf of all the hostages.
He said the pilot’s fearless attitude served as an inspiration to the children caught in the hijack. “He set an example as a role model and how to behave even though all hell is breaking loose around you.”
On June 27, 1976, the plane carrying 260 people from Tel Aviv to Paris had stopped in Athens, where the hijackers got on board and demanded it change course. They forced Bacos and his crew to fly to Benghazi in Libya.
The hijackers demanded release of 54 militants and a $5 million ransom.
The hostage crisis ended six days later at Entebbe airport in Uganda when Israeli commandos stormed the plane.