We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Was the Lockerbie Bombing?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
WikiMotors is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WikiMotors, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The Lockerbie bombing was an air disaster which occurred in 1988 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 259 people aboard a Pan Am-owned Boeing 747 aircraft, along with 11 people on the ground. This event is notable because it was caused by an act of terrorism, rather than pilot error or equipment failure. It was considered one of the deadliest terrorist attacks involving aircraft until 2001, when four aircraft were simultaneously targeted by terrorists in the United States, killing thousands of people in the aircraft and on the ground.

Pan Am Flight 103 was a routine trans-Atlantic flight which ran between London and New York City. On 21 December, the passengers were mostly American, including a large group of students returning home after a semester abroad. According to investigations conducted in the wake of the disaster, the Lockerbie bombing actually started in Germany, when a piece of luggage loaded with Semtex explosive and a pressure-sensitive timer was loaded onto a flight which included 77 passengers bound for New York City. This luggage was transferred to the New York-bound flight.

All appeared normal for the aircraft after takeoff, with the pilots responding to communications from air traffic controllers and the plane showing up on radar until 5:02 PM, at which point the flight stopped responding and the single radar target suddenly turned into four. The Semtex explosives on the plane ripped through the fuselage in seconds when a pressure change triggered the detonator, causing a catastrophic failure of the plane's integrity and a midair breakup.

As the plane broke up, sections plummeted into the village of Lockerbie, killing several people on the ground and destroying numerous houses. According to one witness who testified at the inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing, one of the flight attendants was alive when the plane hit the ground, although she died before medical aid could arrive. Other passengers were killed in the abrupt decompression of the plane, or from the considerable physical trauma caused by impact with the ground.

The investigation into the bombing quickly uncovered two Libyan nationals who were put on trial for the crime. One of them, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, was convicted and sentenced to prison. The United States took a very active role in the investigation, given the large number of American citizens involved, and it suggested that Libya was responsible for the bombing, condemning the nation as a state sponsor of terrorism. Libya initially denied this accusation, but government leaders later publicly apologized for the bombing and offered compensation, which would seem to suggest that the American accusation may have been at least partially correct.

The events of the Lockerbie bombing are usually blamed on an escalating climate of tension between the United States and Libya. Several notable terrorist attacks targeting Americans occurred during the 1980s, and many of these events were linked to Libya and the Middle East. In response, the United States pushed for sanctions against Libya and other nations which sponsored terrorism, triggering some backlash in the process.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WikiMotors researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
WikiMotors, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WikiMotors, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.