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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Talk with Pilot of Plane Attacked

Aired November 28, 2002 - 08:18   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Straight away back to Tel Aviv. Matthew Chance standing by with the pilot on board that 757, his recollection of what happened back in Kenya -- Matthew, hello again.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello again, Bill.

And that's right, I'm standing here with Captain Rafi Marek, the gentleman who took off and piloted that plane as it left Mombasa Airport.

Let's speak to you now, Mr. Marek.

What exactly did you see and experience in the moments after that 757 took off from the airport?

RAFI MAREK, PILOT: Oh, we were just taking off and retracting the landing gear as we felt a kind of bump, not something very serious. And right after that we saw two white stripes passing us by on the left side, coming up from the back of the airplane towards the front of it and disappearing just after a few seconds.

CHANCE: And at that point did you realize that this was a missile attack on the aircraft?

MAREK: Well, we couldn't tell for sure because none of us fortunately have previous experience with missiles in the air. So we thought that's a possibility. We were not sure at the time. Only much later on on the flight, as we were speaking to Tel Aviv, they told us that this is a possibility.

CHANCE: Now, what action did you decide to take? Obviously you knew something untoward was happening.

MAREK: Yes.

CHANCE: Did you consider the possibility of making an emergency landing?

MAREK: Yes, well, we had no reason to make an emergency landing. An emergency landing at the weight we were is a dangerous exercise. According all the indications we had, everything was normal so we decided to carry on the flight to Tel Aviv.

CHANCE: I want to ask Captain Marek, obviously airline security is paramount in the minds of everybody around the world these days, particularly in Israel, though. Is this kind of an attack something that Israeli pilots are generally trained for, prepared for, told to look out for?

MAREK: Well, I'm not really allowed to go into any details about this. But I can tell you that we hope that -- and obviously security has been much tighter on this issue, because obviously it was not good enough.

CHANCE: Let's go back to the moments after you saw what you saw. What did you, how did you communicate with the passengers? What did you tell them that had happened? Because I understand from speaking to some of them that many of them felt a shudder, many of them saw the smoke, as well. What did you tell them?

MAREK: Yes, well, there was no panic at the, from the passenger side. We just let them know that everything was fine and we were going on to Tel Aviv. Nothing special.

CHANCE: Now, you mentioned that you didn't learn until much later in the flight yourself that this had been an attempted missile strike against the plane. When you learned that, did you immediately tell the passengers what had happened? At what point did you decide to do that?

MAREK: No, no, no. We thought that they had nothing to do with this information for, during this six hour flight. So we just gave them some information about half an hour before landing and that's it.

CHANCE: All right, Captain Rafi Marek, thank you very much for speaking to us here on CNN.

MAREK: Thank you very much.

CHANCE: Well, there you have it, Bill, word from the pilot, from the cockpit that they saw these two streams of smoke coming past them. They had no idea at that point that this was a missile strike. All they knew is that the aircraft was not damaged and that they felt it was safe enough to proceed to their destination here in Tel Aviv -- Bill.

HEMMER: Right. Ultimately it ended up OK, 261 on board plus 10 crew members.

Matthew Chance, thanks, along with the pilot there in Tel Aviv.

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