French pilot hailed as hero for role in 1976 hijacking drama dies aged 95
Michel Bacos refused to leave the passengers who were later freed by Israeli commandos at Entebbe, Uganda.
A French pilot who is remembered as a hero for his actions in the 1976 hijacking of an Air France plane to Uganda’s Entebbe airport has died at the age of 95.
Michel Bacos was awarded the Legion of Honour, France’s highest decoration, for refusing to leave the passengers after the plane was hijacked and grounded.
Some 110 hostages were held in the airport terminal for nearly a week by seven pro-Palestinian hijackers before Israeli commandos freed them.
Nice mayor Christian Estrosi said in a statement that Mr Bacos died on Tuesday in the southern French city.
“By refusing with bravery to quit in the face of anti-Semitism and barbary, he honoured France,” Mr Estrosi said.
Four hostages were killed along with the terrorists.
The Tel Aviv-Paris flight was hijacked on June 27 1976 by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and a German radical group.
The hijackers released 148 non-Israeli passengers after the plane landed in Uganda.
Mr Bacos remained with the hostages despite offers of release.
The seven pro-Palestinian hijackers held some 110 Jewish and Israeli hostages in the airport terminal for nearly a week before Israeli commandos led by Yonatan Netanyahu, the older brother of Israel’s current prime minister, freed them.
I bow my head in his memory and salute Michel's heroism Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister
The commandos flew over 2,500 miles from Israel to Uganda to attempt the daring operation.
Yonatan Netanyahu was the sole Israeli military casualty in the raid on Entebbe.
Three Israeli hostages were killed along with all seven of the hijackers.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Mr Bacos as the “hero captain” of the hijacked Air France flight on Twitter: “I bow my head in his memory and salute Michel’s heroism.”
Benny Davidson, one of the former Israeli hostages, remembered Mr Bacos as “a dear man and a great hero”.
Mr Davidson, who was 13 at the time of the hijacking, wrote on Facebook that Mr Bacos “taught us a lesson in leadership, responsibility and exemplarity.”