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Pan-Am Pilots Fight For Terrorism Compensation

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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Former Pan-American airlines pilots gathered  in Washington, D.C., Wednesday to plead their case for terrorism compensation, after they lost all benefits with the collapse of the airline in 1991.

The pilots believe the collapse of PanAm in 1991 is directly linked to the Libyan terrorist bombing of Pan-Am Flight 103 in December, 1988. The government of Libya admitted its complicity in the attack in 2003, and set up a $1.5 billion wealth fund to compensate affected family members of the bombing.

Many of these particular pilots lost their jobs, benefits, and pensions in the late stage of their careers, which precluded their future employment chances due to the mandatory retirement age for pilots at age 60. The pilots believe they are entitled to compensation from the Libyan settlement fund, and that they themselves are victims of the terrorist attack.

Captain William Doss, a Vietnam veteran,and PanAM pilot seeking compensation, toldto The Daily Caller News Foundation that airlines were almost immediately compensated by the U.S. government in the aftermath of 9/11. “The U.S. government did not come to the aid of PanAm,” he lamented. Joanne Young, a lawyer representing the pilots, pointed out to The Washington Post that the pilots are not even seeking taxpayer dollars, but “Libyan blood money.”

The only way for the pilots to access the Libyan settlement fund is through the U.S. foreign claims settlement commission. A July decision on an individual pilots case does not however bode well for their collective claim.

The commission wrote that the Pilots “failed to establish a sufficiently proximate causal connection between the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and Pan Am’s closure three years later in December 1991. Pan Am’s finances and passenger traffic were improving before the recession and the Gulf War in 1990. It was those two events that sent the company into the relevant downward spiral, and the airline’s losses from that time period eclipsed those from immediately following Lockerbie.”

Doss strongly pushed back against that notion to the DCNF saying that PanAm’s logo became irrevocably intertwined with an iconic Time Magazine cover showing the aftermath of the bombing. “Thats enough to scare anyone from not wanting to fly on the airplane,” Doss said.

“Clearly it was an attack directed at the United States. The United States could absorb it. Pan Am had no ability to absorb it. You could see it. You could step in the back of an airplane, there’d be no one there,” Doss told the hearing.

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