On this day in aviation History 30 years ago today - Pan AM Flight 103

Pan Am Flight 103 was a regularly scheduled flight between Frankfurt to Detroit via London and New York City.

image

Clipper Maid of the Sea, or Pan Am Flight 103 departed Frankfurt at 1825 that evening on a clear afternoon. The flight was heading to New York City, New York. 33 minutes into the flight, Flight 103 contacted Shanwick Oceanic Area Control in Prestwick on frequency 123.95. The Clipper Maid of the Seas approached the corner of the Solway Firth at 19:01, and crossed the coast at 19:02. Flight 103 was squawking 0357 cruising at a Flight altitude of 31,000ft. At 19:02:44 Pan Am Flight 103 was given it’s clearance route for the Oceanic route. At the time the aircraft did not receive the clearance, On radar the squawk flickered and then disappeared. At 19:02:50 a loud explosion could be heard over comms. Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie Scotland. A British Airways pilot reported seeing a huge explosion. The Wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 extended over a mile.

The explosion punched a 20 inch hole on the left side of the fuselage. The fuselage continued moving forward and down until it reached 19,000 ft when it became vertical and dived down The rear fuselage, parts of the baggage hold and three landing gear units landed at Rosebank Crescent. The fuselage consisting of the main wing box structure landed in Sherwood Crescent, creating a large impact crater where three homes previously stood. The 200,000 lb of jet fuel ignited by the impact started fires which destroyed several additional houses.
The British Geological Survey 14 mi away at Eskdalemuire registered a seismic event at 19:03:36 measuring 1.6 on the moment magnitude scale which was attributed to the impact of Flight 103.

The rest of the wreckage composed of "the complete fuselage forward of approximately station 480 to station 380 and incorporating the flight deck and nose landing gear was found as one piece in a field approximately 2.5 mi east of Lockerbie. All 259 people onboard Flight 103 were killed including 11 people on the ground.

Investigators from the FAA concluded that no emergency procedures had been started in the cockpit. Investigators from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) of the British Department for Transport concluded that the nose of the aircraft was effectively blown off, and was separated from the main section within three seconds of the explosion. The nose cone was briefly held on by a band of metal but facing aft, like the lid of a can. It then sheared off, up and backwards to starboard, striking off the No. 3 engine and landing some distance outside the town, on a hill in the civil parish of Tundergarth
The cockpit voice recorder, located in the tail section of the aircraft, was found in a field by police searchers within 24 hours.

The Passengers onboard.

Thirty-five of the passengers were students from Syracuse University returning home for Christmas following a semester studying in London at Syracuse’s London and Florence campuses, 50-year-old UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson was enroute to New York City to the UN to attend the signing of the New York Accords, Volkswagen America CEO James Fuller who was returning from a meeting with Volkswagen executives in West Germany; and musician Paul Jeffreys, formerly bass player with Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel. Matthew Gannon, the Central Intelligence Agency’s deputy station chief in Beirut, Lebanon, was sitting in Clipper Class, Pan Am’s version of business class.

The Residents

Eleven Lockerbie residents on Sherwood Crescent were killed when the wing section hit the house at 13 Sherwood Crescent, it exploded, creating a crater more 154ft long. Dora and Maurice Henry were killed and never found. everal other houses and their foundations were destroyed, and 21 others were damaged so badly they had to be demolished. A Family of four, Jack and Rosalind Somerville and their children Paul, and Lyndsey were killed when their house exploded. The two children were never found.
Kathleen Flannigan, her husband Thomas, and their daughter Joanne , were killed by the explosion in their house also. They were never found. Mary Lancaster, and Jean Murray were the two oldest people to die in the explosions.

The Aftermath

In 1992, a US federal court found Pan Am guilty of willful misconduct due to lax security screening. Alert Management Inc. and Pan American World Services, two subsidiaries of Pan Am, were also found guilty; Alert handled Pan Am’s security at foreign airports.

On 3 May 2000, the trial of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhiman began, Megrahi was found guilty of 270 counts of murder on 31 January 2001, and was sentenced to life in prison, while Fhiman was found not guilty.
The Lockerbie judgment stated: “From the evidence which we have discussed so far, we are satisfied that it has been proved that the primary suitcase containing the explosive device was dispatched from Malta, passed through Frankfurt and was loaded onto PA103 at Heathrow. It is, as we have said, clear that, with one exception the clothing in the primary suitcase was the clothing purchased in Mr Gauci’s shop on 7 December 1988. The purchaser was, on Mr Gauci’s evidence, a Libyan. The trigger for the explosion was an MST-13 timer of the single solder mask variety. A substantial quantity of such timers had been supplied to Libya. We cannot say that it is impossible that the clothing might have been taken from Malta, united somewhere with a timer from some source other than Libya and introduced into the airline baggage system at Frankfurt or Heathrow. When, however, the evidence regarding the clothing, the purchaser and the timer is taken with the evidence that an unaccompanied bag was taken from KM180 to PA103A, the inference that that was the primary suitcase becomes, in our view, irresistible. As we have also said, the absence of an explanation as to how the suitcase was taken into the system at Luqa is a major difficulty for the Crown case, but after taking full account of that difficulty, we remain of the view that the primary suitcase began its journey at Luqa. The clear inference which we draw from this evidence is that the conception, planning and execution of the plot which led to the planting of the explosive device was of Libyan origin. While no doubt organisations such as the PFLP-GC and the PPSF were also engaged in terrorist activities during the same period, we are satisfied that there was no evidence from which we could infer that they were involved in this particular act of terrorism, and the evidence relating to their activities does not create a reasonable doubt in our minds about the Libyan origin of this crime.”

In 2003, Libya formally admitted responsibility for Pan Am Flight 103 in a letter presented to the president of the United Nations. On 23 February 2011, amidst the Libyan Civil War, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, former Libyan Justice Minister (and later member and Chairman of the anti-Gaddafi National Transitional Council), alleged that he had evidence that Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, had personally ordered Abdelbaset al-Megrah to bomb Pan Am Flight 103.

On 29 May 2002, Libya offered up to US$2.7 billion to settle claims by the families of the 270 killed in the Lockerbie bombing, representing US$10 million per family.

18 Likes

You need to open your own discourse page…

1 Like

Oh maybe one day lol

1 Like

What a tragedy…

I have family in Scotland, not Lockerbie particularly but in that area. My Granny has friends who were in Lockerbie at the time, but were outside of the centre of the city, and not affected.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 90 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.