Pilot recalls 1972 hijack

Speaking from his own experience flying a hijacked plane, pilot William R. ``Billy Bob'' Haas says the United States should heed the advice of TWA pilot John L. Testrake, a hostage in Beirut. Pilot Testrake has warned from his pilot's window against any rescue attempt, saying it would lead to almost certain tragedy for all on board.

Mr. Haas, another US pilot who endured a 30-hour hijacking in November 1972, urges that Captain Testrake be taken at his word.

Mr. Haas, who eventually wrote a book about his ordeal called ``Odyssey of Terror,'' says he recently advised a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) official who asked for his assessment to ``leave that crew alone.''

Well aware how tired the TWA crew must be, Haas says the captain of the aircraft is still best able to determine what's happening and what should be done.

``If he wants intervention, he'll call for it, and that's when they should give it to him,'' Haas says. ``If he doesn't, he won't, and they should leave him alone.''

Haas recalls that his case -- a Southern Airlines flight that began in Birmingham, Ala., but crisscrossed the nation -- ended with a foam landing in Havana. Six of his plane's eight tires were shot out by agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

``This business of saying the crew is tired and doesn't know what it's doing can just become an excuse for doing something drastic,'' he says.

``I'm not saying pilots are supermen, but when there's an emergency, the physical condition you're in and all the training you've had will get you through it,'' says Haas, who now works for Republic Airlines.

``The pilot is absolutely the best man on the spot to determine what should be done.''

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