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Kuwaiti Jet's Pilot Always Said Flying Is Safe

April 14, 1988|From Reuters

KUWAIT — Subhi Naim Youssef, the Iraqi pilot of hijacked Kuwait Airways Flight 422, used to tell his family and passengers that flying was safer than driving a car.

"It was like a proverb for him," said his daughter Jenny, 22, in a telephone interview. "He used it to calm down people who went aboard the plane."

With her mother and two brothers, Jenny has been following the hijacking as the plane went first to Iran, then Cyprus and now Algeria.

Her father "is a very cool person, very gentle," said Jenny. "He's very caring."

About four days ago, while the hijacked Boeing 747 was on the ground in Larnaca, Cyprus, the pilot radioed the operations room at Kuwait Airways, where Youssef's pilot son Laith works.

"He said, 'Give my regards to Laith and the family,' " Jenny said. That is the only direct message they have received.

"He's a very professional pilot," said a colleague, who also flies for Kuwait Airways. "I guess you could say, if you had to go through such a thing, he would be about the best man (at the controls) I could think of."

Youssef, who has lived in Kuwait more than 20 years, is one of Kuwait Airways' most experienced pilots. He has clocked nearly 20,000 hours of flying time.

As he piloted his jumbo jet aloft from the Larnaca airport early Wednesday, Youssef radioed back: "From all the crew and passengers, we thank you for your hospitality. We hope to see you again."

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