TWA pilot John Testrake was one of the heroes who put up a brave fight against the Lebanese hijackers. John kept his cool under severe pressure and ensured everyone’s safety. The incident took place in the year 1985. Nine crew members and one forty five passengers were on board. The hijackers demanded the freedom of their Lebanese brothers from the various jails of Israel. The Trans World Airlines jet was about to cover the distance from Athens to the city of Rome when the unfortunate incident occurred.
The hijackers created panic by killing a navy diver and by holding the gun at John’s head. Testrake managed to convey a coded radio message to his company office. The hijackers were armed with pistols and grenades. The crew did a good job in helping the passengers to stay calm. Testrake flew the plane under tremendous pressure. He showed courage, patience and nerves of steel under pressure. The passengers took heart from his courage and tried to stay as calm as possible.
Following a chain of negotiations the hostages were released finally. Seven Lebanese prisoners were released in the bargain. A major portion of the passenger plane constituted women and children. The release of the militiamen marked an end to the oil sales of the Middle East to the west. However, nothing is more important than human lives. The hostages breathed a sigh of relief when they were finally released. The past few weeks were like a nightmare to them. The survivors all found a new life. To them John Testrake was a hero as his intelligence and calmness of handling the situation enabled so many human lives to be saved.
John Testrake would be remembered forever for his courage and presence of mind. One small mistake on his part could have taken the lives of many innocent people. He is a hero in true sense. He died at the age of 68 fighting against cancer.