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  • [MUSIC PLAYING]

  • The 1950s and 60s are often in the early 1970s

  • hijackings of flights originating from the US

  • were quite literally out of control.

  • When the US government passed the anti hijacking act of 1974

  • it was a direct response to what is now sometimes called

  • the golden age of skyjackings.

  • In fact, between 1960 in 1974 there

  • were 240 hijackings or attempted hijackings between the US

  • and Cuba alone.

  • So today we're going to take a look at the Golden age of plane

  • hijackings.

  • But before we get started, be sure to subscribe to the Weird

  • History channel and let us know in the comments

  • below what other aviation related topics

  • you would to hear about.

  • Now if you look at the center of your screen

  • you'll notice this Weird History explainer video.

  • On May 1st, 1961 and Antulio Ramirez Ortiz

  • took over the cockpit of a national Airlines flight

  • on his way to Key West, Florida.

  • He had a gun and a knife and he demanded to be taken to Cuba.

  • So he could warn Fidel Castro of an assassination plot

  • against him.

  • Ortiz said he was a Castro loyalist who

  • left Cuba looking for work but now wanted

  • to return to his native land.

  • When the plane arrived in Cuba.

  • Castro returned it the crew and the other passengers

  • within a day.

  • Ortiz stayed in Cuba two years later

  • Ortiz tried to leave again.

  • However, this time he was arrested.

  • And in 1965 he was sentenced to three years

  • in prison for espionage.

  • When he got out of prison he tried to leave yet again

  • and wound up spending another three years in prison

  • in the early 1970s.

  • He finally made it out of Cuba again in 1975.

  • His triumph was short lived however,

  • because he was immediately arrested for the 1961 hijacking

  • upon arrival in the US.

  • He spent four years in prison in the US.

  • Although it's hard to believe now

  • at the time of Ortiz hijacking the US

  • had no official policies regarding air piracy.

  • So instead, he was charged with assault

  • and transporting a stolen aircraft across state lines.

  • The late 1960s and early 1970s were characterized

  • by an epidemic of hijackings and most of the planes

  • were taken in the US and then redirected to Cuba.

  • The reasons for these hijackings varied widely

  • with the perpetrators wanting everything

  • from being able to study communism

  • to getting some decent free holli's that's not a bad joke.

  • Seriously a guy hijacked an airplane for free holli's

  • hijacking for pizza I get free holli's

  • that's more of jaywalking.

  • The US Congress decided to take action

  • and as a result of Senate hearings

  • the Federal Aviation Administration

  • set up a task force to explore counter hijacking techniques.

  • Previously pilots had been given guns

  • but obviously that wasn't too effective.

  • Now operating under the theory that the best offense would

  • be a good defense the government mandated

  • that airline passengers were to be

  • sent through metal detectors.

  • Additionally, the first hijacker profile was established.

  • If there's one thing the world has learned from social media

  • and internet comments it's that everyone thinks they're

  • an expert on everything.

  • So when hijackings became a problem and the FAA

  • decided they wanted to take action.

  • You can bet your house the average airline passenger had

  • a few ideas on what should be done

  • and they weren't afraid to say so.

  • Passengers understandably wanted to protect themselves.

  • So they chimed in and offered suggestions

  • ranging from cartoonishly impractical booby traps

  • to screening processes rooted in bigoted paranoia.

  • Some of the more memorable examples

  • of passenger suggestions included,

  • installing trapdoors outside cockpits,

  • arming stewardesses with tranquilizer darts,

  • and playing the Cuban national anthem before takeoff

  • and then arresting anyone who knew the lyrics.

  • Lucky for everyone the FAA decided

  • to listen to the experts.

  • Although it may not be the most exciting or gratifying strategy

  • simply giving in to an armed skyjackers

  • demands was the safest, most practical option

  • for airline pilots.

  • So that's what they were told to do cockpits were equipped

  • with maps of the Caribbean, pilots

  • were told about the landing facilities

  • at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport,

  • and they were given cards with rudimentary Spanish

  • so they could communicate with any potential hijacker.

  • An official Cuba hijack phone line

  • was installed at Miami air traffic

  • control in the Swiss who were the US

  • is diplomatic intermediaries created

  • a form that could be used to request the return of planes.

  • Castro for his part was really more interested

  • in embarrassing the US than anything else.

  • So most of the planes were eventually returned albeit

  • with a heavy fee attached

  • [MUSIC PLAYING]

  • Raffaele Minichiello, skyjacked a flight in October of 1969 one

  • that had several stop offs before reaching

  • its final destination.

  • He flew from Los Angeles to San Francisco

  • where he hijack a plane and demanded

  • to be taken to New York guys racking up the miles.

  • The plane stopped in Denver and the passengers were released.

  • After refueling in New York FBI agents

  • tried to keep Minichiello from taking off again.

  • Born in Italy, Minichiello wanted to go home

  • and after firing his gun was allowed to continue on a flight

  • to Rome.

  • He escaped capture when he landed in Rome

  • but was later tracked down by police and taken into custody.

  • Italy refused to extradite him and tried him in Rome instead.

  • His actions woke up FAA and FBI officials as well as

  • highjackers to the possibility of taking flights to a location

  • other than Cuba which was something they had never really

  • considered for no reason other than it had almost never come

  • up before.

  • So why was Minichiello so mad?

  • What drove him to do it?

  • Well he said he was shorted $200 in one of his paychecks

  • as a US Marine you guys don't rip off a Marine.

  • Most of the planes hijacked in the late 1960s and early 1970s

  • were relatively small carrying about 100 passengers

  • on average.

  • In 1973 however, when a hijacker identified as R

  • Campos commandeered American Airlines flight 299

  • from New York to San Juan.

  • He took a plane with 379 passengers on board to Cuba.

  • The plane landed safely in Cuba and was greeted by Fidel Castro

  • himself.

  • Castro chatted with a pilot Captain Augustus Watkins

  • and inspected the 747 while assuring him

  • that the plane would be able to take off Despite its size

  • and a lack of appropriate runway space at the Cuban airport

  • What can't Castro do?

  • The plane did take off shortly after landing

  • and made its way to Miami after FBI agents debriefed Watkins

  • the 747 departed for San Juan arriving only about

  • seven hours late.

  • Most all hijackers up until this point had been men

  • but not all hijackers are men.

  • Take Catherine Marie Kerkow who along with fellow Black Panther

  • Roger Holder hijacked Western Airlines flight

  • 701 from Los Angeles to Seattle by claiming to have a bomb.

  • They demanded $500,000 and let the plane land in San Francisco

  • once on the ground Kerkow and her colleague boarded a plane

  • to Algeria where they were granted asylum

  • not cool Algeria.

  • She was charged with air piracy by a federal court in 1972

  • and a warrant was issued for her arrest.

  • In 1975 the two were arrested for trying

  • to illegally enter France.

  • They were found guilty and fined and they were released but not

  • allowed to leave Paris.

  • Kerkow however, left Holder was extradited to the US but Kerkow

  • whereabouts are unknown.

  • She remains on the most wanted list for domestic terrorism.

  • After hijacking a Pan American flight headed

  • to Puerto Rico in 1968, Louis Armando Pena Soltren

  • spent over 40 years in Cuba.

  • According to accounts Soltren and two accomplices

  • stormed the cockpit with weapons he snuck

  • on the flight in a diaper bag.

  • His fellow hijackers were arrested and sent back

  • to prison in the US.

  • But Soltren was protected and he had

  • a long tenure as a fugitive in Cuba before returning to the US

  • in 2009.

  • However, the US doesn't forget hijackers and upon his return

  • in 2011 he faced air piracy and kidnapping charges

  • and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

  • In 1972 three criminals hijacked a plane in Birmingham,

  • Alabama shortly after it took off.

  • They ordered the pilot to fly around the country for a while

  • and demanded a $10 million ransom.

  • At one point they even threatened

  • to have the plane crash into the nuclear facility

  • at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

  • Despite the bluster however, the affair

  • eventually ended thankfully without a nuclear explosion.

  • But the incident wasn't completely bloodless either.

  • The first officer was shot and 31 passengers

  • were held hostage for 29 hours.

  • In 1974 Samuel Byck hijacked a Delta Airlines flight leaving

  • Baltimore, Maryland and he had big plans

  • namely the crashed the plane into the White House.

  • Byck had a gun and a bomb on board

  • when he got to the cockpit of the plane

  • he shot both the co-pilot and the pilot killing the first

  • and injuring the latter.

  • Thanks to the unsmart thinking of taking out the pilot.

  • Byck never got the plane off of the ground

  • then a police officer pursued him

  • who shot him while he was still in the plane.

  • Accounts vary as to whether or not

  • the cop killed Byck or merely wounded him

  • before Byck took his own life.

  • Byck didn't get to carry his plan out

  • but he did leave his mark on pop culture.

  • He's a character in Stephen Sondheim's and John wideman's

  • 1991 musical assassins and he was

  • portrayed by Sean Penn in the 2004 film

  • the assassination of Richard Nixon.

  • He's even alleged to be one of the inspirations

  • for the character Travis Bickle who

  • was played by Robert De Niro in the 1976 hit film Taxi Driver.

  • Possibly, the most famous jacker of all time

  • was the enigmatic Dan Cooper who threw a mistake propagated

  • by the mass media became known to the world DB Cooper.

  • Cooper whoever he may have been famously

  • hijacked a Northwest Airlines flight in 1971

  • over Washington State.

  • After the flight landed in Seattle authorities

  • delivered him $200,000 as well as several parachutes.

  • He demanded to be taken to Mexico

  • and the plane took off again.

  • While heading South Cooper parachuted out

  • of the plane never to be seen again.

  • While the FBI believes Cooper likely

  • couldn't have survived his jump given the weather conditions

  • and gear he was wearing there are Nonetheless

  • lots of theories about what happened to him.

  • There have been no traces of Cooper himself

  • since the hijacking however, in 1980

  • three packets of Cooper's ransom money

  • were discovered in the Sandy river bank of the Columbia

  • River.

  • And in 2017 authorities found what

  • they thought was a strap from his parachute in the Pacific

  • Northwest.

  • As the 1970s wore on airplane hijackings

  • became more brazen, more global, and more extortionist

  • threatening passengers lives for money

  • and then using the planes to escape with a preferred

  • methods of skyjacking.

  • To end the situation once and for all the FBI

  • began sending snipers to tarmacs and plainclothes

  • agents began boarding planes.

  • Finally, on January 5, 1973 all passengers

  • began being screened.

  • While this didn't put an end to hijackings.

  • It did put an end to the frequent occurrences

  • that constituted the golden age of hijackings.

  • So what do you think?