In 1962, just at the moment of independence, Mohamed Benammour returned to Algeria from his studies in France. From a modest rural background, Mohamed was the first Algerian to obtain a degree in aeronautical engineering. He was rapidly promoted to a senior position of responsibility within Algerian civil aviation, which nevertheless remained largely under French control. What was happening in civil aviation in the 1960s and early 1970s was a snapshot of what was happening across Algeria in this period. Algeria was seeking to give substance to its political independence by ending its economic and technical dependency on France and the West. It was also seeking to position itself as a leader of liberation movements on the world stage. Mohamed tells the story of his role in bringing Algerian aviation into Algerian hands, as well as the challenges of managing the many hijacked aeroplanes which arrived in Algiers during this period, as members of the PLO and the Black Panthers sought to land in ‘the Mecca of Revolution’.
The sovereignty of the skies
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