Story of a photograph: Maximum number of passengers on an airplane, May 1991

Posted on Mar 9, 2022      248

The record was set by chance during the Solomon rescue operation.

The program to remove Ethiopian Jews to Israel began back in 1977 and was carried out in several operations, including “Moses” and “Yehoshua”. But Operation Solomon in 1991 was the most ambitious. During the operation, 14,325 people were brought from Ethiopia to Israel in just 36 hours.

Those who could fly to Israel can be lucky. The situation in Ethiopia was heating. President Mengistu Haile Mariam, under whom the Jewish repatriation program was possible, was about to be overthrown. In fact, Mengistu stepped down on May 21, and on the 25th, the Israeli secret service began a rapid removal of Jews.

34 planes were involved in the operation: 10 passenger planes of the El Al airline and 24 C-130 planes of the Israeli Air Force. But the Boeing-747 of El Al airlines became the most famous. It was the one that set the record for the number of passengers carried in an airplane.

“A Boeing” of this type, under normal circumstances, holds about 480 passengers. But the Israelis dismantled the seats in advance, figuring rightly that more passengers would fit.

The plane was supposed to carry 760 people, but it quickly became clear that all the refugees were very light. So in the end there were 1,122 people on the plane - 1,087 officially and another 35 children hiding in their mothers’ clothes. That’s how the record was set in the photo. And here’s a similar picture from a different angle.