Little Bits of History

Hijacked

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 16, 2014
2014 hijacked plane

2014 hijacked plane in Geneva

July 16, 1948: Miss Macao is hijacked. The Catalina seaplane was owned by Cathay Pacific and operated by a subsidiary. This was the first hijacking of a commercial plane and took place when the cockpit was stormed. The plane crashed and killed 25 of the 26 people on board. The lone survivor was Huang Yu, the hijacker. He survived by jumping from the emergency exit just prior to the crash. He was brought to court by the Macau police but they deferred to Hong Kong where the plane was registered. The British government there claimed the crime took place in China and they did not have jurisdiction. Since no one wished to try him, Huang was released without a trial on June 11, 1951 and was then deported to the People’s Republic of China.

Hijacking is also called aircraft piracy and also sometimes referred to as skyjacking. It is the unlawful seizure of an aircraft by an individual or a group. The reasons can be varied. In the above incident, the goal was robbery. Also, planes have been hijacked in order to demand a change of route so the hijackers can be taken to where they believe they would find a safe haven. In at least three cases, the planes were hijacked by either the pilot or co-pilot. The biggest use for hijacking is to hold the passengers as hostages to effect a trade for money or some political concessions. This last often produces an armed standoff between those inside the plane and those on the ground where the plane is landed.

The first non-commercial hijacking took place on February 21, 1931 when armed revolutionaries in Peru approached Byron Rickards demanding to be taken to the fighting. He refused. After a ten-day standoff, Rickards was informed that the revolution was successful and he was free to go if he took one of the members of the group to Lima. Howard “Doc” DeCelles was in Mexico and approached in December 1929 to take an unwanted passenger to an unknown destination, he told a Fort Worth newspaper in 1970. He claims to be the first hijacked pilot as he did deliver his passenger as demanded. The world’s first fatal hijacking took place in 1939 when a pilot instructor was aloft when he was shot by his student who wanted to keep the plane for himself.

Between 1948 and 1957 there were 15 hijackings worldwide. Between 1958 and 1967, it rose to 48 or about 5 per year. In 1968, there were 38 and in 1969 there were 82, the largest number in a single year. Between 1968 and 1977, the annual average was 41. The numbers dropped and there were 18 per year during the 1988 to 1997 decade. The September 11, 2001 hijacking of three planes resulted in 2,996 direct deaths making it the most fatal in history.  The case of DB Copper is the only unsolved hijacking in American history. The last plane to be taken over was on February 17, 2014 when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 702 was diverted to Geneva and the hijacker was the co-pilot who was arrested.

The airplane stays up because it doesn’t have the time to fall. – Orville Wright

To invent an airplane is nothing. To build one is something. But to fly is everything. – Otto Lilienthal

If you can walk away from a landing, it’s a good landing. If you use the airplane the next day, it’s an outstanding landing. – Chuck Yeager

Airplanes may kill you, but they ain’t likely to hurt you. – Satchel Paige

Also on this day: Phony – In 1951, The Catcher in the Rye is published.
Calendars – In 622, the Islamic calendar began.
No Kissing – In 1451, King Henry VI bans kissing.
Lovely Rita – In 1935, the first parking meter was unveiled.

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