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Transatlantic Escort Of Terrorist Was Aviation Feat

January 29, 1988 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Navy flier described to a federal judge Thursday how he and some Air Force colleagues made aviation history while spiriting an alleged Lebanese terrorist from the Mediterranean Sea to the United States.

According to Navy Cmdr. Philip Voss, 40, his 4,002-mile flight last September from the deck of the USS Saratoga to Andrews Air Force Base near Washington was ″a thousand miles farther than anybody had ever flown in a carrier-based airplane.″

And it was accomplished with the help of an Air Force KC-10 tanker which took off from the United States, joined up with Voss over the Mediterranean, and accompanied him back across the Atlantic.

Aboard Voss’ small S-3 submarine hunter, powered by twin fanjets, was a team of FBI agents and their prize captive, Amal militiaman Fawaz Younis, who was subsequently charged with the 1985 hijacking of a Royal Jordanian airliner.

Voss related his account during a pretrial hearing in U.S. District Court on various defense motions to suppress evidence in the case.

Younis’ defense attorney, Francis D. Carter, has claimed that his client was mistreated and was so ill during the four-day searide and the grueling flight, during which he was sedated, that any statements he made to government agents in that period should be disallowed.

According to the government, two victims of the TWA Flight 847 hijacking that same year have identified Younis as one of the men who guarded them during their captivity in Lebanon.

Younis was captured when he was lured aboard an FBI-chartered yacht off the coast of Lebanon. He was transferred to a U.S. warship for a four-day ride to the western Mediterranean, then moved aboard the Saratoga for the flight to the United States.

From start to finish, the entire operation, including the travel of support craft, was accomplished without entering the territorial waters or airspace of another nation, thereby avoiding complications that have thwarted other U.S. attempts to bring suspected terrorists to justice.

Voss, then ending a tour as an S-3 squadron commander, said he didn’t know the identity of his passenger until he was airborne. He had been ordered to prepare his eight-plane squadron for an extraordinarily long flight, he said, but other details of the mission had also been withheld until the final moments.

After his entire squadron practiced refueling from Air Force tankers for days, he nominated several of his senior aviators for the yet-secret mission, only to be ordered to make the flight himself because of his overriding experience, he said. He added that he had to fly the plane without a co-pilot or navigator, over his objections, to make room for a doctor and the government agents.

Voss, who has logged more than 3,000 hours in the S-3, said the flight took 13 hours, 10 minutes, during which he was refueled three times by a KC-10 from Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., which led him all the way across, including a three-hour period of bad weather.

″Those guys were great,″ said Voss. ″They told me they set a record, too.″ The tanker, which was airborne 23 hours, was itself refueled by a sister ship from Seymour-Johnson on the way home, he said.

FBI Special Agent Thomas P. Hansen told the court, in response to Carter’s claims, that Younis ″never indicated that he was in any kind of distress″ during his first few days of captivity. Hansen acknowledged, however, that Younis suffered from seasickness and occasionally ″winced″ from wrist injuries.

The defense claims that agents broke Younis’ wrists by throwing him to the deck of the yacht at the moment of his arrest.