When all the cool kids were hijacking airplanes

Between 1968 and 1973, somebody hijacked a commercial airliner nearly every week.


  1. I remember those days. They all went to Cuba it seemed. As a precocious 3rd grader, I tried to hijack our schoolbus to have it go to Cuba. The driver wasn’t having it.

    1. I sincerely hope that was pre-9/11. These days, that precocious tot would get to go to Cuba, all right – Guantanamo, to be specific.

    2.  I remember a cartoon in MAD Magazine back in that era, with a stewardess asking a passenger “Coffee, tea or Cuba?”

  2. Note that this will never happen again. Skyjacking relied on the assumption that the safest thing the passenger and crew could do was cooperate. Post 9/11, nobody will believe that.

    Note too that, having lived through this period and knowing that a small plane once hit the Empire State Building by accident, I did not find 9/11 very surprising. Infuriating, annoying, lots of other words — but the concept itself was a direct extension of things I was already aware of, and had no shock value for me.

  3. My mom was on a plane in 1969 that was hijacked to Cuba while she was pregnant with me. She was sat next to a guy who got up to use the bathroom and when he came out he hijacked the plane.

    After that, my grandmother started carrying a little metal pen-looking device which could, she told me, release tear gas if she was ever faced with such a situation.

    Those were simpler times when anyone could peaceably hijack a plane and grandmothers carried tear gas when they travelled.

    Also, I kinda like the idea that I could’ve possibly been born in Cuba.

    1. A former boss of mine was on his honeymoon cruise in the Caribbean.  They got to Havana on Jan. 1, 1959, the same day Castro did.

    1.  No, it won’t. While I believe that we have greatly overreacted to 9/11 and that we need to get over wallowing in our grief and rage, I think we have learned that anyone fucking with where an airplane is going should be met with maximum resistance. This is a good lesson.

      1. fair enough.. my comment was just an unsuccessful attempt at humour, based on how uncool things seem to become cool again in 10 or so years. You know computers were not cool in the 80s now they are cool. that sort of thing….anyway I didn’t expect it to be met with such hostility.. but you do make a fair and sensible point.

      2. I think one of the few good things to come out of the terrorist scare is that if you so much as pretend to cause danger to an aircraft, you get your shit fucked up. Usually by rightfully-zealous passengers.

        The stories are never not fun to read. :)

  4. My step father was instrumental in subduing a 16 year old with a pair of guns who tried to hijack a plane to Cube in November of 1965.   A number of shots were fired, but somehow nobody was hurt, and the kid was disarmed.  By chance, one of the heads of NASA and many of the top brass of the Gemini program were on the plane at the time.  A handful of gold doubloons from my step father Ed Haake’s treasure hunter friend was enough to distract him before he was disarmed with a karate chop.  At the time, I think hijacking a plane was a rather novel idea.  Later, it became a little cliche, and required a bit more effort.


      1. On a similar note, the German movie “Die Stille nach dem Schuß” deals with West German radicals who defect to the East. The East Germans (even the loyal Communist ones) are dumfounded as to why anyone would find this a good idea. 

    1. Amazing! I actually discuss this hijacking in the book, especially the baffled-yet-insightful reaction of the kid’s father. The kid claimed that he was on a mission to liberate a bunch of Cuban political prisoners. Safe to say his odds of success were zero from the start. 

  5. There was a Twilight Zone episode where there’s a gremlin out on the plane wing, which only the protagonist sees, and he can’t convince anybody that it’s really there, and eventually shoots it.  The original 1963 TV episode had Bill Shatner on the plane and a guy in a dumb-looking Yeti suit as the gremlin, and when it was remade as a movie segment in 1983, with John Lithgow as the passenger and a CGI gremlin on the wing, they had to stretch things a lot more to explain having a gun on the plane that he could shoot the gremlin with.

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