View Full Version : Lebanese Civil Aircraft Downed By Missile?

24th May 2001, 16:07
Just caught the tail end of the news - didn't get the details. Anyone got the story?

24th May 2001, 16:22

Tango Lima
24th May 2001, 17:27
If I recall correctly, that A/C is on the N register. Would the NTSB be involved in the investigation?


24th May 2001, 17:43
Looks like a suicide mission alright, just enough training to get there. Took off without his instructors permission, ignored very obvious interceptions by the Israelis. Anniversary of the Israeli pullout.
It all fits. Any protestations that he was a lost inexperienced pilot might be believable if it wasn't for the fact that he was flying along a coastline.
If he hadn't been shot down he no doubt would have dived into an appropriate target.
Quite a memorable first solo, all in all.

You know we pilots have and excellent way of committing suicide anytime we like. Although I'm find it hard to be depressed when I'm flying.

24th May 2001, 19:42
As much as I regrett any loss of life, particularly by violent means, and sympathise with the Palestinian cause, I think this is a clear example of why every student pilot has to pass his/her air law exam before going solo.

In any case, and without knowing the details (I doubt anybody will ever do), let's assume he was lost, let's assume he didn't know the interception procedures, still, didn't he have a radio to communicate on 121.5? Too many mistakes in such a "hot" area is a sure recipe for death.

My condolences to his family and friends.

24th May 2001, 19:57
<<Too many mistakes>>...oh no, I've forgotten to bring my instructor...if I had a pound for every time that's happened -NOT!!!

24th May 2001, 20:08
Whilst I don't take sides on this issue, it is interesting to note that Hezbollah knew the pilot's name....


24th May 2001, 21:54
I think it was a good move by Israelis (who can debate that?)regardless of the pilots intentions. Unfortunately you cant afford to be lost in that area and if indeed he was lost why didnt he fly circles or out to sea upon seeing an Israeli border force.

24th May 2001, 23:07
This incident is very damaging to Civil Aviation in the area, as the possibility of opening new airways over Lebanon to cut flying times from Europe to the Gulf might be delayed.
Heard the warnings given to the pilot on 121.5 about 200NM from the Beirut, as it is customary for all aircraft flying in the area to maintain a listening watch. He was told to identify himself about 4 times then that he was told that he was going to be shut down about 4 times.
The fact that Hezbollah knew the name of the pilot is not a big deal.It was all over the net and TV minutes after the incident, as the Lebanese authorities were tracking the flight path for a while since it took-off from Beirut.
The pilot Took-off without any clearence and was seen on Beirut Radar leaving to the south without answering on his radio any warnings from Beirut Control before beeing intersepted.Proves he had intent but the suicide theory is still unproven as the israelis would have found exlosives in the wreckage.

25th May 2001, 00:29
Bigjets & Joaquin.
He was not lost. You can not get lost over there. The Israeli coast line is very different to the Lebanese. He was shot down some 35-40km from Tel Aviv or about 130km from the Lebanese/Israeli border.

[This message has been edited by AC-DC (edited 24 May 2001).]

25th May 2001, 01:57
You don't need explosives to do damage with an aircraft, a VNE dive will do the job nicely.
It set a precedent though, look how far he got. What if he had explosives on board? I suspect, given the palestine propensity for suicide bombings, that this might be repeated for real one day. Buy, steal or hijack an aircraft, fill it with just enough explosives and a barely trained pilot wearing a bandanna and aim at the Knesset, GPS is all you need.
What's the Arabic for Divine Wind, Anyone?

25th May 2001, 02:53
Oh Steepclimb, so dramatic- a "VNE" dive- very technical.Would it really have to be "VNE"??? Have you ever seen any sort of substantial building hit by a light aircraft(not containing explosives)-there is not much left of the aircraft, I assure you.

Now going back to attacks on the Knesset, or any other "material" targets-I think you will find Hezbollah and the rest not too interested in this form of attack, when they have (in their eyes) been so sucessful with recent lone suicide bomber attacks.Their strategy, had you been watching events close enough, was in effect taking life for life.This has surely got the Israelies worried.

Not that I condone this type of attack, however every day unarmed Palestinians(sorry, armed with stones!) are being killed and is very often never reported in the media-I wonder why?
The overkill policy adopted by Israel, including the use of F-16's and tanks may be popular for home consumption, but will never be a solution to their problems and only earns the condemnation of world opinion.

As for Sharon, the man is a warmonger who will only inflame and aggravate the situation.A negotiated settelement under Senator Mitchell is the only (distant)hope of a solution and the Palestinians have declared their willingness to co-operate with Mitchell

Will Sharon?-I doubt it.

fire wall
25th May 2001, 03:40
mach 78, i agree the Mitchell plan is the only way out. I refuse to take sides in this however I have yet to see an Isreali walk into a shopping mall with a device strapped to his chest and push the button? In the end someone has to stop the killing ... who has the guts to be the first to do such?

Genghis McCann
25th May 2001, 04:26
Mach78 - methinks you have an axe to grind. I too do not like much of what I see on both sides but frankly the Israelis had no choice. To all but the most generous of obsevers that bloke was 99.9% a would-be suicide merchant. In this case there was simply no choice but to shoot him down.

It does not solve the intractable problems of the Middle East but in this case the Israelis got it right.

25th May 2001, 13:05
Latest report as published by the Beirut "Daily Star":

Pilot struck by Israel not a terrorist but 'impulsive' student Friday, May 25, 2001 (Agencies)

Nicolian was 'impulsive'
Stephen Nicolian, 43, the Lebanese-Armenian who was shot down by the Israeli airforce Thursday after taking off from Beirut Airport, was reportedly not a terrorist on a suicide mission but, according to press reports, a wealthy student pilot with impulsive behavior that cost him his life and almost sparked a war in the region.

Interior Minister Elias Murr, who rushed to Beirut International Airport once the news of the downed civilian plane hit the media, made clear Nicolian was not on a terrorist mission and attributed the incident to the pilot’s “psychological problems.”

“All indications show that this was not a suicide mission,” Murr said. “No explosives or documents were found in the plane…. Calling this a military operation misrepresents the event. It must be kept in perspective.”


Murr said Nicolian had “only flown five or six hours” at flying schools in Beirut, and that most of his training, some 35 hours, was done in Cyprus.

“He [Nicolian] lived some time abroad and might have been contacted by Israeli or other intelligence services who involved him in this action,” Murr claimed. “We are still gathering information about him from foreign embassies.”

Nicolian’s flight instructor in Cyprus, where Nicolian attended flight school from February to mid-March this year, supported Murr's comments on the pilot's disruptive personality and the unliklihood that he was involved in a suicide mission. John Oratis described his student as a troublesome “rich boy with a lot of money who wanted to fly.”

“He was a very difficult student. Not a dangerous flyer, but he had no respect for authority,” said Oratis in Cyprus. “Although it wasn’t in his nature to go on a suicide mission, it wouldn’t surprise me if he was dared.”

Oratis said Nicolian had studied basic flight training with him in Larnaca "because he had some problems with flying clubs in Lebanon. He wanted to prove to them that he could do it and I guess he did."

Oratis added Nicolian had once been stopped at Larnaca airport for getting too close to a landing airplane. "He was a very difficult student and over-exuberant about flying.”

Shot down by Israel

Nicolian took off Thursday morning from Beirut’s Airport without authorization leaving his instructor on the tarmac. Beirut’s control tower attempted unsuccessfully to contact him after takeoff, as civilian air traffic is forbidden to fly south of Jiyye, midway between Beirut and Sidon. The airport radar continued to track the plane’s flight until it crossed over to Israel.

The Israeli Army, which tracked the plane from Beirut by radar, said warplanes and helicopters intercepted the Cessna as it crossed the border.

“Air force planes approached [the aircraft] after it crossed the international border,” air force commander Dan Halutz said. “I emphasize this. After it crossed the border, not one meter before that.”

Remains of the downed Cessna
But witnesses, including Unifil peacekeepers, said that Israeli warplanes were spotted circling the light aircraft as it flew over Tyre, 20 kilometers north of the border.

The Cessna weaved a zigzag course across the sea and coast, passing over Unifil headquarters in Naqoura and crossing the border into Israel. The plane circled for several minutes over Nahariye, the first Israeli town on the coast south of the frontier, sparking panic among residents, including families of civilian Unifil employees, who headed for bomb shelters.

Israeli army spokesman Brigadier General Ron Kitrey said they fired warning shots and tried to contact the pilot through internationally recognized signals and using emergency frequencies but they claimed he ignored all contact.

The plane then flew over Haifa, before being blasted out of the air with a burst of machine-gun fire from a helicopter.

It remains unclear why the Israelis allowed Nicolian to venture so far into Israel, crossing a town and a city, before shooting his plane down.

With tensions at breaking point along the Lebanon-Israel border on the first anniversary of Israel’s troop withdrawal, Nicolian’s motive for the flight left the Lebanese and Israeli authorities completely baffled.

25th May 2001, 13:08
The Israeli's may have got it right this time. I would say with all that has gone on recently they have made the best decision, but using F-16's to protect yourself against stone throwers does not justify any Israeli cause.

For those people who refuse to take sides. For goodness sake! it is not a matter of taking sides. It is prudent of you to admit that Israel has transgressed every legal barrier in their ludicrous attempt to claim some land. This is the issue, you can think about peace once this has been settled. As basic and easy as it may sound it happens everywhere on Earth: IRA, ETA, Kashmir, Punjab / Indian dispute, Indonesia.

Indeed certain Palestinians go about it in the wrong way; taking the name of God in suicide attacks. For anyone who thinks suicide is a customary thing in Islam – I have news for you, IT’S NOT!!! – it’s a major sin and that’s what happens to people when they become desperate – A calamity you’ve been lucky enough not to experience in your lifetime.

What I can’t quite understand is the lack of involvement from the rest of the world.

[This message has been edited by G-OODY (edited 25 May 2001).]

25th May 2001, 13:38

You are right to say that suicide is forbidden in Islam, but its only western media who coined the phase “suicide bombers”, these “freedom fighters” firmly believe that they are martyrs dying for Islam and will therefore be richly rewarded in heaven.

Now what exactly do you want the rest of the world to do?

Mutt :)

25th May 2001, 13:57

I agree, but they are also dying for their rights and doesn't anyone who strives against a tyrant or an opressor deserve a heavenly reward, not just in the name of religion.

<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" size="2">Now what exactly do you want the rest of the world to do? </font>

...personally? theres not much they can/will do, not until they dust the cabinets with a fine duster. http://www.pprune.org/ubb/NonCGI/eek.gif

25th May 2001, 13:59

I almost completely agree with you, but being this an aviation forum, I think the political discusion is a bit out of place.

Back to the matter, I read: “He was a very difficult student. Not a dangerous flyer, but he had no respect for authority,” said Oratis [his instructor] in Cyprus."
PLEASE, Cyprus Authorities, revoke this instructor's QFI license, NOW!!!!!!

Golden Monkey
25th May 2001, 15:04
Just a bit of morbid curiosity, straying away from all right/wrong/moral judgements. The report someone's posted suggested the Cessna was brought down my machine gun fire from a Helecopter. I guess this makes sense given the speed of the Cessna and, err, cost effectiveness - I wonder who decided whether to shoot the thing down with (presumably) an Army(?) Cobra or let the Air Force test fire one of their Sidewinders. It sounds like a joint operation.

Tango Lima
25th May 2001, 15:37
A reuters photo of the incident


25th May 2001, 17:36
A striking photo, rather a fiery end. Still looks like suicide to me. Even if he was some form of impulsive fool, it should have been evident to him that the Israelis would shoot him down eventually. It's not as if he was a stranger to that part of the world. Whatever his intentions there could only be one result once he crossed the border and ignored the interception.

Oh and Mach 78, VNE dive may be a bit dramatic, let's say a glide descent into a nursery school, just to be emotive.

Not surprisingly the Lebanese want to play down any hint of suicide attacks originating from Beirut airport. The Israelis have a way of dealing with these situations. Actually what surprises me is that there is any form of private flying and even flying clubs in Lebanon. The whole place is a danger zone.

G-OODY your rather black and white assessment of the situation in the middle east is riciculous. Neither side has exactly acquitted itself well in this situation. I do tend to find that when people say 'why doesn't the world do something about it' they mean why doesn't the world do something about Israel. Perhaps we should invade a la Iraq or apply sanctions. Please! Israel has enough enemies for a tiny country without adding to it's problems. And, no I don't like the justification for building settlements on Palestinian land, as do many Israelis.
In any case the world is taking an interest, well America anyway, which the same thing.

To get back to the point, finally. I suspect this incident will damage what little GA goes on in Lebanon. Not only will an Instructor give permission for a student to go solo, but the Lebanese military and the Israeli defence minister and must take place with an F16 escort.

Idle Power
25th May 2001, 20:46
It is debatable whether the Israeli action was justified. However, in my eyes Israel remains one of the most trigger-happy, paranoid and heavy-handed countries on earth.

It will be a shame if private flying is curtailed in Lebanon. A good Cypriot friend of mine flew there a few years ago from Cyprus - what a scenic flight.

25th May 2001, 23:35

“However every day unarmed Palestinians (sorry, armed with stones!) are being killed”

Damn, these journalists are lying again. I can’t understand why they report about mortar attacks on Israeli towns, fire exchange and suicide bombs. How can they mistaken stones for bombs? Well, they must be idiots, isn’t it right?

It is fair to support either side. If you want to believe cheap propaganda it is fine by me, but don’t expect thinking people to believe any piece of stupidity that you believe in.

“As for Sharon, the man is a warmonger who will only inflame and aggravate the situation”

Yes, he is not a dove, but what about Arafat and the other Palestinian leaders who call for the struggle to go on until victory and the party in Jerusalem? Have you heard Arafats speech on the Day of Nakba where he said that the struggle will continue and that there will be no peace unless Israel will accept ‘The Right of Return’ which actually spells the end of Israel? I am sure that you have not, it wasn’t meant to your ears. Sharon announced that Israeli forces will not initiate hostilities and will cease-fire as long as they will not be shot at or as long as lives are not at risk. Have you heard a similar call from the Palestinian camp? I didn’t.

25th May 2001, 23:51

IMHO you have been brain washed beyond recognition. As for "cheap propaganda" - you are undermining our ability to think for ourselves. Are you an expert on the subject?

<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" size="2">Have you heard Arafats speech on the Day of Nakba where he said that the struggle will continue and that there will be no peace unless Israel will accept ‘The Right of Return’ which actually spells the end of Israel?</font>

Thats precisely how the end of Palestine was 'spelled' when the US and Europe called for a separate Jew state...go figure! :mad:

OK fair enough, no more politics. :)

26th May 2001, 01:38
'Are you an expert on the subject?'

Yes I am.

26th May 2001, 02:11

The isrealis aren't shooting at the kids with the stones. That is what you are lead to believe. What happens is 100 kids start throwing rocks, in their midst is a sniper who is SHOOTING at the Isrealis. It is with that person whom the soldiers are exchanging fire.

If they were shooting at the kids they would all be dead in the first volley.

Shame on the palestinian parents for deliberately putting their children in the line of fire. Shame on the press for not reporting the news in a more balanced method, instead of looking for the dead child. To some degree the press are responsible for the dead children as this is staged for their benefit.

If it was me, my policy would be all sniper fire will be returned with ARTILERLY. snipers/soldiers hiding behind civilians are despicable. Civilians that encourage it for the benefit of the cameras are worse.

My hearts go out to the Isreali soldiers involved. None of them wake up in the morning wanting to shoot children.

The savegery that has been perpetuated against the isrealis is unreal. two 10 year old children TORTURED to death etc...


Idle Power
26th May 2001, 11:25

You must be twisted if your heart goes out to the Isreali soldiers - I find that totally perverse!

Nuff said.

26th May 2001, 13:54
Idle Power,

You must be twisted if your heart goes out to the Palestinian terrorists- I find that totally perverse!

Those that put little children in the way of danger (happily, and readily) are sick.

Nuff said.

26th May 2001, 14:11
AC-DC, as your name suggests, you probably get it "both ways"

More seriously, have actually been out there and seen it?-there is no doubt who the David and Goliath is out there.

Damn,(such a quaint turn of phrase!) by the way, I didn't suggest journalists were lying.I was suggesting there was an omission of reporting.
Why aren't you more interested in
what is actually being written instead of being so concerned with informing us of you ill thought rhetoric.

So your an expert on this eh?-Go on tell us another, I'm all ears.

26th May 2001, 14:21
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" size="2">Those that put little children in the way of danger (happily, and readily) are sick.</font>

Tayas and Wini your utterances are nonsensical. No parent on Earth readily puts their children forward in the face of such danger. That's your vision of events as you see on Jew-owned BBC.

26th May 2001, 14:24
This will be moved to JB or padlocked soon I expect.

26th May 2001, 14:56
Yes, and after G-OODY's offensive anti Jewish remark concerning the ownership of the BBC it should be.

Idle Power
26th May 2001, 15:02
Tayas, you are obviously a Jew and a prat to boot! My problem is with the prat within you!!

26th May 2001, 15:27
What a bunch of crap you fellows are throwing at eachother... Bunch of losers. Stick with the issue, that is the crackpot who got shot down and keep politics out of this forum, please.


P.S. I never forget to say please

26th May 2001, 15:35

&gt;&gt;Jew-owned BBC&lt;&lt;

Give me a break!


&gt;&gt;Tayas, you are obviously a Jew and a prat to boot&lt;&lt;

So what if he is a Jew? What are you trying to say?? That we are all prats?

Capt.PPRUNE get this thread sorted out before it gets totally out of hand.


26th May 2001, 15:42
Hey listen my remark was not anti-jewish. Like always it's the people who suffer at the hand of cowboy style leadership. I make no distinction between Palestinians, Israelis, Jews or Muslims. I also hope and pray for the best.

26th May 2001, 15:54

I completely agree with your last post then.

Unfortunately, not many people think rationally these days.

This type of thread was bound to stoke up anger, and I was silly enough to have joined in.

My last post on this topic.


[This message has been edited by AJ (edited 26 May 2001).]

Capt PPRuNe
26th May 2001, 16:19
The next person to post anything on this thread that I construe to be racist (I include anti-semitic in that word) or diverges from the topic which was about the Cessna being shot down will find themselves barred from using this forum. I especially include G-OODY and Idle Power in my warnings.

Too many times I have seen threads deteriorate into pseudo political mud slinging and then all the ingrained hatreds spew out from a few individuals who think they can hijack this forum to spout their political beliefs whilst throwing in a few 'jibes' which sound ominously racist. I take the ones by G-OODY and Idle Power as examples and repeat my warning, especially to them. A comment such as "That's your vision of events as you see on Jew-owned BBC." is precisely the kind of comments that were used in Nazi Germany in the mid 1930's to incite hatred and we all know where that led. A retraction is expected because for all you know, this website may be "Jew owned"!

Capt PPRuNe
aka Danny Fyne
The Professional Pilots RUmour NEtwork

[This message has been edited by Capt PPRuNe (edited 26 May 2001).]

Idle Power
26th May 2001, 16:53
Capt PPRuNe,

I would like to apologise for my last post on this subject. I am not anti-semitic or ever have been. I also include Tayas in this apology.

Perhaps in future I should keep to the straight and narrow oops I mean level! http://www.pprune.org/ubb/NonCGI/redface.gif

Idle Power

Call the tower
26th May 2001, 18:58
Seems very clear cut to me.....

"Student" pilot takes off WITHOUT CLR.

Contact attempted by Beriut RADAR.....Nothing

Intercepted by gunships...contact attempted.
Internatioanl ICAO signals used...
Warning shots fired....


Good to see the Israelis not putting up with any crap.
You can rest assure this would have had a far sinister outcome had they not taken the action they did..

Seems strange to me why ANYONE would do a suicide bombing?

26th May 2001, 19:47
OK Captain PPRuNe,

I accept my remark was was out of order.

28th May 2001, 17:41
What a pleasure to see order restored so swiftly.
A shame that the young pilot did not realise that discipline in flying can be terminal, much as can results from defying the various other laws and rules of the profession.