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Top 10 Sensational Cases of Aircraft Hijacking

Published on 26 July, 2013 at 3:17 pm By

Hijackings of airplanes have been one of the favorite ways for terrorists to spread terror, ask for ransom or the release of fellow terrorists. There have been cases of people hijacking a plane just to get rich. Once the plane is in the air and it loses control of the cockpit, a dangerous and urgent situation arises which can make the authorities panic and at the same time catch the attention of the media and scare the hell out of the public. With improved security at airports the number of hijackings have decreased but a few decades ago, hijacking an airplane was very common. Here are the top 10 sensational cases of aircraft hijacking.

10. First Recorded Aircraft Hijack of Cathay Pacific Seaplane:

The first recorded case of an aircraft being hijacked comes from 1948. A Cathay Pacific seaplane was on a routine flight from Macau to Hong Kong when four men armed with guns tried to take control of the plane. The hijack attempt was unsuccessful as the pilots refused to let the hijackers take control of the plane and in the ensuing confusion, the pilot was killed and the plane crashed into the sea. The sole survivor turned out to be one of the hijackers. He confessed that they were trying to hijack the plane for ransom.

First Recorded Aircraft Hijack of Cathay Pacific Seaplane

9. Southern Airways Flight 49:


On November 10, 1972, Southern Airways Flight 49 was hijacked by three men who demanded $10 million in ransom. They flew the plane from city to city all over the US and to Canada. They infamously threatened to crash the plane into Oak Ridge National Laboratory if their demands were not met, a foreboding to the events of 9/11. They landed in Cuba but didn’t get the expected asylum from Castro and had to fly back to US. In Orlando the FBI shot the plane’s tires but the hijackers took off anyways and went back to Cuba. There they landed on a partially foam covered runway and were captured while trying to escape. They were sentenced first in Cuba and then in US and the money was returned to US.

Southern Airways Flight 49

8. American Airlines Flight 119:

In 1972 a lot of hijackings were taking place in the US, with a lot of people trying to copy what the now infamous DB Cooper had managed to do. In the ninth copycat attempt, Martin J. McNally hijacked the American Airlines Flight 119, armed with a machine gun that he brought on hid in a trombone case. He let go all but one passenger and asked for $502500. The FBI tried to stop the hijacking by posing as airlines officials who were showing him how to use the parachute but they didn’t get an opportunity as he kept his gun aimed at a stewardess. Later on, a drunk and stupid businessman named David Henley tried to stop the hijacking by driving his Cadillac into the plane. He was severely injured and McNally changed the plane along with his hostages. He managed to jump off the plane with the money but got separated from it in midair. The money and the gun was found in neighboring farms and later he was captured using his fingerprints.

American Airlines Flight 119

7. Air India Flight 182:

In 1985, the Air India Flight 182 blew up in midair while flying from Canada to India over the Atlantic ocean. A bomb had been planted on the airline. All 329 passengers were killed that comprised of 280 Canadians, 22 Indians and 27 British citizens. Initially the cause of this hijacking was unknown but after a lot of investigation for almost 20 years it’s thought to be the work of a Sikh group staying in Canada as part of the Khalistan movement going on in India during that time.

Air India Flight 182

6. Malaysian Airlines Flight 653:

This is another hijacking that led to the death of all people involved and whose cause was not immediately clear. Malaysian Airlines Flight 653 was hijacked in 1977 by an unknown hijacker while it was flying from Penang to Kuala Lumpur. The flight was diverted to Singapore and slowly all communication was lost. The flight eventually crashed at Tanjung Kupang killing all 93 passengers and 7 crew. It was speculated that the Japanese Red Army was behind the crash but this has never been confirmed.

Malaysian Airlines Flight 653

5. US Airlines Convair 440:

In 1961, the US Airlines Convair 440 flight was hijacked by a US Korean war veteran, Antulio Ramirez Ortiz and taken to Cuba. He boarded the plane with a knife and a gun and demanded the pilot to take the flight to Cuba as he was seeking asylum there. At the time hijacking of domestic flights was so uncommon that it wasn’t even a federal offense. He never got asylum in Cuba and instead spent time in a prison there. In 1975 he was apprehended in Jamaica and was charged with assault and transportation of stolen aircraft over state lines.

US Airlines Convair 440

4. Indian Airlines Flight 814:

In December 1999 the Indian Airlines Flight IC 814 was hijacked by Pakistani terrorists while it was coming to Delhi from Nepal. They landed the plane in Amritsar, Lahore, Dubai and eventually in Kandahar in Afghanistan. They demanded the release of 35 other terrorists in Indian jails along with $200 million in cash. Negotiations were held as the hijacking turned into one of the longest hijacking lasting 7 days and the number of terrorists released was reduced to 3. This sensational case of aircraft hijacking is also remembered as one of the war-provoking moments in Indo-Pak relationship.

Indian Airlines Flight 814

3. Air France Flight 139:


Air France Flight 139 was flying from Athens to Paris when it was hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the German Revolutionary Cell. The plane was carrying around 250 passengers and 12 crew members. The flight was taken to Entebbe Airport in Uganda as the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin supported the hijackers. The non Israeli and Jewish hostages were released and the rest were kept against the demand of release of 40 Palestinians detained in Israel. This led to the Operation Entebbe where Israeli soldiers attacked the airport and rescued the hostages. All the hijackers, three hostages, 45 Ugandan soldiers and one Israeli commando Yonatan Netanyahu was killed in the operation.

Air France Flight 139

2. The DB Cooper Hijacking:

In 1971 a man hijacked the Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305 which was flying from Portland to Seattle. He bought his ticket using the name Dale Cooper. Due to some communication problems the media got to DB Cooper and the name stuck. The real identity of the man remains a mystery to this day. After the plane took off he Cooper claimed to have a bomb in his suitcase and he showed it to one of the stewardesses. He demanded $200,000 in cash and four parachutes. He released all the passengers and only kept the crew and attendants as hostage. He used the parachute cord to tie the satchel of money to his chest. He stayed at the back of the airplane. And told the pilot to fly to Reno at an altitude of 10,000 feet. Though the plane was being followed by other planes no one saw when or where Cooper jumped. As he was alone at the back of the plane, the crew didn’t see when he jumped either. To this day it is not known whether he survived and managed to keep the money or not. Most people believe that he did and have turned DB Cooper into a bit of a folk hero.

The DB Cooper Hijacking

1. 9/11 Hijackings:


The most notorious and the most recent hijacking is of course the hijacking of four US planes on September 11, 2001 by Islamist terrorists. 19 terrorists hijacked American Airlines Flight 11, American Airlines Flight 77, United Airlines Flight 93 and United Airlines Flight 175 with the intent of crashing them into major US sites. Two planes crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre and one plane crashed into the Pentagon. The fourth plane is said to have been targeting the White House but the crew and the passengers fought the hijackers and the flight crashed in barren land in Pennsylvania. In a total more than 3000 people died due to these hijackings. This event totally changed the world and the way airport security is handled.

9-11 Hijackings


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