A Flight with Henry Kissinger to Beijing that Changed the World

Jul 21, 2021

On this particular night in July 1971, we were told to get ready for a 3 AM departure.

On the 9th of July, the crew of this Boeing 707 was asked to get ready for a 2 a.m. departure with a VVIP. With a complete blackout, we had to prepare for this VVIP flight with the aircraft parked again in a steel hangar.

First to arrive were the Chinese dignitary and the Chinese interpreter that we had brought on our previous trip.

At about 2 a.m I saw a Volkswagen Beetle coming in and stopping next to the first-class steps. It was being driven by Mr. Sultan Mohammad Khan, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary.

Since it was dark, it was difficult to see the passengers in his car. But as soon as they came out of the car and started to come up the steps, lo and behold! the man following Mr. Khan was none other than Dr. Henry Kissinger, Assistant to the US President for National Security affairs!

U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (R) meets with Chinese President Mao Zedong (L) in Beijing, China

I was the first to greet him aboard, introduced myself as Purser in charge. Dr. Kissinger then introduced me to the other gentlemen in the party – namely Winston Lord, John Holdridge, and Richard Smyser. Mr. Khan got out, the door was closed, and departure was announced to Peking. I remember having told Captain M.T. Baig, the commander of this flight, as to who exactly our VVIP passengers were. He was as surprised as one might expect.

Soon after take-off, the flight was to follow the same route as our earlier proving flight through the northern areas of Pakistan, entering China through a narrow corridor that links the Pak – China border, then along the majestic Karakorum Range of mountains over Chinese territory to Peking.

This is an excerpt from an article writtin by Abdul Hayee in PIA Retired Cabin Crew.

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