The Herald

Air stew­ardess and wife of hero pi­lot comes in to land

Charmaine on board flight when hus­band bat­tled hi­jacker in cock­pit fight

- BEN PHILIP

AN AIR stew­ardess whose pi­lot hus­band was hailed a hero af­ter he foiled a mid-air hi­jack­ing on board a Bri­tish Air­ways jet just months be­fore 9/11 has re­tired af­ter 44 years in the air.

Charmaine McCall-Ha­gan, 65, of Both­well, South La­nark­shire, is one of the UK’s long­est-serv­ing cabin crew mem­bers and flew her last flight as a stew­ardess on a Lo­ganair ser­vice from Shet­land to Ed­in­burgh on Fri­day.

But most of the pas­sen­gers will not have re­alised she was trav­el­ling with her chil­dren on board a BA jet fly­ing from Gatwick to Nairobi, pi­loted by her hus­band Cap­tain Bill Ha­gan in De­cem­ber, 2000 when Paul Mukonyi burst into the cock­pit – which in the days be­fore the New York Twin Tow­ers and Wash­ing­ton sui­cide at­tacks of Septem­ber 2001 was not locked.

In the en­su­ing strug­gle auto-pi­lot be­came dis­en­gaged and the jumbo was knocked off course, send­ing it plung­ing.

The in­ci­dent sent the Boe­ing 747 with 398 peo­ple on board, in­clud­ing singer Bryan Ferry, for­mer mo­tor rac­ing world cham­pion Jackie Ste­wart, so­cialite Jemima Gold­smith and her mother Lady Annabel, into a 10,000ft nosedive.

Mr Ha­gan had to re­sort to stick­ing his fin­ger in the hi­jacker’s eye to stop his at­tack. The plane later landed safely.

Mrs McCall-Ha­gan said: “Af­ter­wards we said it was like win­ning the lot­tery be­cause we sur­vived it.

“It wasn’t nice and it’s a shame be­cause when you hear about plane crashes the pas­sen­gers know they are go­ing down and it’s not pleas­ant at all.”

Mr Ha­gan said of the in­ci­dent: “The event be­tween him and I went on for the best part of three min­utes, so I had quite a wide se­lec­tion of thoughts dur­ing that time, but ul­ti­mately my main con­cern was for the safety of the air­craft.

“A few days be­fore we were on the air­craft I had been talk­ing to my young son as he was then and he asked what you would do to fight off a shark if you were at­tacked by one. I said I had been told that if you stick your fin­ger in its eye it might break off its at­tack and it was just at the time as we were go­ing down I got the in­spi­ra­tion to gouge him with my fin­ger.”

The story made front page news around the world, with the dra­matic in­ci­dent gain­ing even more ex­po­sure thanks to an im­age of Mukonyi ly­ing trussed up and hand­cuffed on the floor of the first class up­per deck as Ferry looks on be­mused.

Mr Ha­gan, who has since re­tired, and his wife, and their daugh­ter Alanna and son Ai­den trav­elled to Lon­don where the pi­lot re­ceived a Golden Hero award from Ms G Awards in Lon­don from Lady Annabel.

Mrs McCall-Ha­gan started her ca­reer in 1973 at the age of 21 with Bri­tish Air­ways, with her first flight to Belfast. It was on the Belfast route that she met her hus­band.

Her avi­a­tion ca­reer was pri­mar­ily spent in Scot­land, apart from six years when she worked with Bri­tish Air­ways’ long-haul fleet trav­el­ling to des­ti­na­tions in the US and Africa.

The mother-of-two has looked af­ter many well-known pas­sen­gers dur­ing her ex­ten­sive ca­reer, in­clud­ing foot­baller Ge­orge Best, Prince An­drew and Princess Anne.

She joined Lo­ganair in 2011 and the Scot­tish re­gional air­line marked her de­par­ture by hold­ing an in­for­mal cer­e­mony in Sum­burgh Air­port’s de­par­ture lounge and an­nounc­ing to pas­sen­gers it would be her fi­nal flight.

Mrs McCall-Ha­gan said: “I’ve had a fan­tas­tic ca­reer and when you think about it I can’t go on for­ever – I must be the old­est stew­ardess in Bri­tain. I’m just em­bar­rassed about all the fuss.

“I’ve had a great time from start to fin­ish. We own a boat in Largs so I could be swap­ping the skies for the ocean.”

Jonathan Hin­kles, Lo­ganair’s manag­ing di­rec­tor, said: “Con­grat­u­la­tions to Charmaine on her well-de­served re­tire­ment.”

 ??  ?? FI­NAL AN­NOUNCE­MENT: Charmaine McCall-Ha­gan on her last flight af­ter a ca­reer of more than 44 years. Pic­ture: Lo­ganair/PA
FI­NAL AN­NOUNCE­MENT: Charmaine McCall-Ha­gan on her last flight af­ter a ca­reer of more than 44 years. Pic­ture: Lo­ganair/PA
 ??  ?? EARLY DAYS: She started with Bri­tish Air­ways.
EARLY DAYS: She started with Bri­tish Air­ways.
 ??  ?? TRUSSED UP: Pop singer Bryan Ferry, left, watches as the failed hi­jacker lies on the floor.
TRUSSED UP: Pop singer Bryan Ferry, left, watches as the failed hi­jacker lies on the floor.
 ??  ?? MEDAL: Wil­liam Ha­gan with Charmaine, daugh­ter Alanna and son Ai­den and his award.
MEDAL: Wil­liam Ha­gan with Charmaine, daugh­ter Alanna and son Ai­den and his award.

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