Airlines

Skyjackings Like the Egypt Air Takeover Tuesday Were Once Common

Between 1961 and 1972, 159 commercial flights were hijacked in the United States alone.

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It's looking like the Tuesday-morning hijacker of an Egypt Air plane bound for Cairo was motivated more by personal than political reasons. The hijacker, who claimed to be wearing a bomb, ordered the plane diverted to the island of Cyprus, several hours from Egypt—and the home of his ex wife. Egyptian media reports that he threw a letter from the plane once it landed at the airport in Larnaca, asking that it be delivered to his former spouse. Others, however, say he wanted the release of some female Egyptian prisoners. Whatever his motives, the hijacker—identified by the Cyprus Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Seif Eldin Mustaf—surrendered and was arrested, and the plane's passengers and crew have been released with no injuries. The explosives strapped to his chest didin't even turn out to be real. 

The mood on Twitter and cable news quickly turned from fear to aww, shucks jokes about the lengths this man went to for love. (Well, with the exception of Fox News, which was reporting that it's unknown if the explosives were real long after other media said they weren't; suggesting that maybe the hijacker didn't voluntarily surrender but was "overtaken" by passengers and crew, when nothing has suggested that; and questioning whether we need to up security measures at airports.) There were also a good deal of people celebrating that a skyjacking has, for a change, ended without anyone hurt or any major catastrophes. But skyjackings that don't end in tragedy are actually much more typical than those that have.

As Bredan Koerner noted in his 2013 book The Skies Belong to Us Crown, skyjackings were once quite common. Between 1961, when the first plane hijacking in American airspace occurred, and 1972, 159 commercial flights were hijacked in the United States alone. 

The 1961 hijacking involved a Miami electrician who diverted a flight from Key West to Cuba so he could warn Fidel Castro about an imaginary assassin. "The man was arrested upon arrival, the passengers were treated to lunch in Havana, and the flight was delayed by three hours before landing safely in Key West," reports Jessica Loudis at The New Inquiry in a review of Koerner's book. More from Loudis: 

Once Kennedy finally made skyjacking a capital offense, in the fall of 1961, the designation led to a lull in hijackings that would last until 1965, when a 14-year-old boy commandeered a plane in Hawaii. After that, Cuba proved to be by far the most popular destination for hijackers: By 1968, regardless of their destination, all airplanes were outfitted with charts of the Caribbean sea in the event of a rerouting to Havana. For several years, hijacked planes were a source of extra income for the Castro regime, which charged airlines an average of $7,500 to retrieve their aircraft. To dissuade would-be hijackers, the State Department proposed offering free one-way flights to Cuba to anybody who wanted them—a measure the Cuban government rejected.

In 1969, the Federal Aviation Administration convened a special anti-hijacking task force to come up with a solution to the problem. The most popular suggestion (which was never acted upon) was to build a mock version of Havana's Jose Marti Airport in South Florida to trick hijackers into thinking that they had reached Cuba.

By 1971, skyjackings had become so frequent that Lloyd's of London started offering hijacking insurance to travelers in the U.S., guaranteeing "$500 per day of captivity, plus $2,500 in medical coverage, and $5,000 in the event of death or dismemberment" in exchange for a $75 premium per flight.

The era of skyjacking reached its apogee and conclusion in 1972. That year saw 40 separate hijackings and a coup-de-grace in which three men hijacked a plane over central Alabama and threatened to fly it into a nuclear power station. After realizing that airplanes could potentially be used as "weapons of mass destruction" the government finally mandated the use of metal detectors and armed guards at airports nationwide.

What seems "most archaic" about the early era of mass flight is how easily passengers moved about the airports, writes Koerner in the intro to The Skies Belong to Us. "Anyone could stroll onto a tarmac and queue for boarding without holding a ticket or presenting identification. Some flights even permitted passengers to pay their fares after takeoff, as if jets were merely commuter trains with wings. A generation of skyjackers exploited this naivete." 

Interestingly, Koerner "has no political axe to grind," according to Loudis' review, and treats the skyjacking wave as a "strange viral phenomena, opportunistic infections attacking a diseased airline system … an avenue of personal expression for his eccentric and unfailingly earnest subjects."

One midcentury hijacker explained his impulse thusly: "It was better than eighteen years of therapy, or whatever. It just seemed like the answer."

NEXT: A.M. Links: EgyptAir Hijacking, Bernie vs. Hillary, Trump's Popularity Declines

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  1. The explosives strapped to his chest didin’t even turn out to be real.

    No wonder she left him.

  2. Heck, I remember Johnny Carson making hijacking jokes during his monologue.

    1. I wonder if they still show that Seinfeld episode where Kramer’s Dominicans hijack Elaine’s plane. SPOILER ALERT: 9/11 changed everything.

  3. 911 wrecked it for everyone.

    1. 911 is a joke in your airplane.

      1. Fuck the TSA coming straight from the underground
        A young nigga got it bad cause I’m brown
        And not the other color so agent think
        They have the authority to kill a religious minority
        Fuck that shit, cause I ain’t the one
        For a punk motherfucker with a badge and a gun
        To be beating on, and thrown in jail
        We can go toe to toe in the middle of a cell
        Fucking with me cause I’m a airline passenger
        With a little bitcoin and a password manager
        Searching my laptop, looking for cryptologic product
        Thinking every nigga is selling narcotics

        1. I dig this.

  4. 9/11 ruined it for everyone else

  5. There needs to be an ad-free solution for people who financially support this site. Some of these advertisements are fucking pungent ass crack. Fuck baby cheetahs.

    1. Download an ad blocker and then feel guilty and donate extra money to the site when donating time comes around. Get it together, AC.

      Fact: Chester Cheetah is a Neil Peart fan.

      The link contains salty language, people.

      1. I do that now, babe. That cokehead Chester tho.

        1. I flip the switch off on Adblock occasionally to not feel the fucking oddness of guilt (in spite of my financial support which is bizarre to me- why the fuck?) and then comes the advert irritation and Adblock. The juxtaposition of these alternating states warrants a complaint biannually. The clouds still roll by on their sky slide.

          1. Just read on mobile once a week. You’ll lose the guilt right quick.

            1. “Read on mobile”.

              Unpossible. What sorcery is this?

              1. I should have put read in scare quotes.

            2. Just read on mobile once a week. You’ll lose the guilt right quick.

              Every other site on the internet either deletes my comments or bans me, so I appreciate that the Koch brothers allow me to post on their website.

              1. Allow you? Hell, the Koch Bros pay me to post here. At least that’s what Tony tells me. I think the checks keep getting lost in the mail.

          2. I recently turned off ad block on some sites. It’s fucking awful. I especially hate this woman with some sort of undereye fungus that’s running here

            1. Ummm…. ENB, that’s a targeted ad… so….

                1. I too appreciate a fine woman with an eye fungus.

                  1. It’s more a yeast infection of the eye.

            2. Thank you! Ffs I feel like I’ma ralph every time I get to the bottom of an article and have to look at eye goop or stomach bugs.

            3. I wonder about the rationale for putting these disgusting pictures in ads. I gotta think that a certain percentage of the population responds to these and ends up clicking, cause why else would they do it? I am aware of the studies out there that indicate that conservatives are strongly influenced by disgust in terms of the basic emotions, so I wonder if there is any relationship (direct or inverse) between conservative tendencies and people that click on these.

              1. Here:

                http://research.vtc.vt.edu/new…..isgusting/

          3. There is no reason to feel “guilty” for blocking ads anywhere. If outfits can’t figure out a way to make money without pissing off their customers, that’s not my fault.

    2. AC, Ads are generally aimed at a particular viewer, so that says something about your internet usage.

      And please leave those poor baby cheetahs alone.

    3. I’m always shocked to learn some people don’t use ad blockers. Even more shocking to me is, when I use someone else’s computer, what the internet looks like without ad blockers. I can’t read an article with all that stuff blinking and popping out at me, sliding out from the sides, and otherwise distracting me.
      But, then again, I’m the type of person who quit watching TV in the seventies, and won’t pay for cable, because of all the ads. The day the first banner ad appeared on my computer screen, somewhere back in the nineties, I began looking for a solution. There have been no ads on my computer ever since. And to those who cry that they need the ad revenue to survive? I liked the internet better before the commercial gold-rush. No one told you you had to put your content up on the web, and there is no right to make money on the internet.

  6. Great, now the TSA is going to be probing my anus to see if I’ve recently been dumped.

    1. Oh, is that, in your case, the best way to obtain that information?

  7. Between 1961 and 1972, 159 commercial flights were hijacked in the United States alone.

    And they almost never happen now. I am not sure this makes the point Elizabeth thinks it does.

    1. If her point–and I think it is, but hopefully she’ll correct me if I’m wrong–is that people need to shit their pants less about things like hijackings, especially from a “it’s all Islamic terrorists all the time!” perspective, than it very much makes the point she (presumably) thinks it does.

      1. Well, once the switch was made from “a day or two of inconvenience” to “incinerated beyond all recognition” I think it’s pretty reasonable to treat hijackings as suicide by passenger rather than some jolly adventure.

        That doesn’t mean the likelihood is something that should be a source of fear, but on the off chance that it happens, I’m fine with killing the hell out of whoever is perpetrating it without regard to his actual intent.

        1. “Well, once the switch was made from “a day or two of inconvenience” to “incinerated beyond all recognition” I think it’s pretty reasonable to treat hijackings as suicide by passenger rather than some jolly adventure.”

          There were a bunch of hijackings that resulted in fatalities prior to 9/11. In the 60’s and 70’s, Israeli planes got hijacked by Hezbollah and Palestinians on multiple occasions, and one of those actually sparked a short war between Israel and Uganda. (It lasted like 6 hours and did not go well for Uganda).

          1. +1 wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer being tossed overboard into the deep blue sea

          2. “Resulted in fatalities” is a fairly faint comparison to “everyone on the plane was turned to ash.” Obviously, there was always the risk that a hijacking might end up with some people dead. At this point, I wouldn’t be inclined to depend on the possibly relatively benign intentions of someone who’s already at least a kidnapper.

            Again, my concern isn’t frequency. If the minuscule chance does happen, though, I’m on board with ending the guy’s life.

          3. one of those actually sparked a short war between Israel and Uganda. (It lasted like 6 hours and did not go well for Uganda).

            And if I’m not mistaken also served as the inspiration for The Delta Force.

            AKA the second greatest movie ever made after Highlander. /sarc

      2. Yeah, being kidnapped by demented loons is cute.

      3. Sure they did. But that was back when a skyjacking was just an inconvenience and a few days stuck in a plane while the hijackers flew around the country getting press. People hijacking planes and flying them into buildings changed that. If we were not confronted with people who are willing to kill themselves and everyone on the plane to make their point, hijackings would be much less of a big deal.

        1. Except for all those times planes were blown up by explosives.

          Or all the times European/Israeli planes were hijacked in the ’70s and passengers ended up getting shot to death.

          Hijackings ending in fatalities is not an uncommon occurrence in the history of the Middle East. Terrorism didn’t start with 9/11.

          1. Fine, people were slow to realize the stakes. What effect should that have on the decisions of people flying today, exactly?

            1. Well, for one thing, your odds of dying in a plane hijacking are virtually nonexistent.

              I don’t know why you guys are looking for a reason to freak out over an article that just said ‘hey, plane hijackings are super rare so we shouldn’t worry that much about it.’ Especially given that in this case it was one random weirdo who had no intention of crashing the plane.

              1. I’ve said multiple times this isn’t about frequency. The odds that someone will break into my house are pretty low. I don’t freak out about it. If someone does break in, however, I’m going to shoot to kill and not wait to find out whether he’s here to kill my family or whether he’s a random weirdo who thought it was his friend’s house.

                If someone hijacks a plane I’m on, however low the odds, I’m not going to rely on his benevolence or goofiness.

                1. Okay. So, you really have no quibbles with the article at all, then.

              2. Especially given that in this case it was one random weirdo who had no intention of crashing the plane.

                I think the point the Elf is trying to make is not so much that we should shit our pants over the minuscule risk of being on a hijacked airplane, but that since you can never tell if the hijacker is a random weirdo with no intention of crashing the plane or some asshole going all “Allahu Ackbar” then he’s OK with the passengers deciding to kill the shit out of the fucker before they find out the hard way if the shitstain is the latter or not.

                Which I’m inclined to agree with, so long as none of that is intended as support for the ridiculous security theater bullshit that we have now.

                1. Fuck security theater.

                  Let American, or JetBlue, or whomever set its security policy and let passengers take or leave said policies.

                  1. Fuck security theater.

                    I think we’re on the same page: in the unlikely event of a hijacking, kill the shit out of the hijacker(s) but don’t use that as an excuse for more of the same TSA horseshit we have to put up with now.

          2. They didn’t end in thousands of deaths. Did people blow up planes? Sure. But that is not the same as hijacking them and flying them into buildings. And those events did change things. Security after those events got tighter.

            I am sorry but if your argument is “the occasional airliner blowing up is just no big deal”, you have lost. You really have.

            1. I am sorry but if your argument is “the occasional airliner blowing up is just no big deal”, you have lost. You really have.

              I am sorry but if your argument is “the occasional school shooting is just no big deal”, you have lost. You really have.

              1. Has there ever been a school shooting that resulted in 2800 deaths? Libertarians need to come up with better arguments than “fuck off and die you stupid statist”.

                1. Are those the libertarians in your head, Red Tony?

                2. “Give me Liberty of give me Death!”

                  Is that better?

        2. Don’t forget, people had a lot more leg-room back then, and could smoke, (and people didn’t yet know they should act like babies about it). Being on a plane was not such a drag back then, and in fact was fun. People used to look forward to flying. Nowadays, under the best of circumstances, you just want to get out of thing as soon as possible, and a high-jacking would only prolong the torture.

    2. Her point is that it’s not a large risk so freaking out about it is stupid, which is backed up by the fact that it’s so uncommon now.

      That seems to support her point.

      1. Lauren Southern, Irish? I’ll give you that she’s much cuter than Breunig, but also an estimated 300 percent crazier

        1. Hmmm, was ENB hoping to replace ESB?

          1. She’ll have to be patient, Irish is going through his “crazy chick” phase.

            1. Maybe after he’s stuck his dick in enough of them he’ll learn.

        2. Bite your tongue!

          I have a thing for crazies, although I dispute that Lauren Southern is crazier than ESB.

          ESB willingly married a man who believes riots are a good thing.

          It takes a special kind of crazy to claim you care about the poor and then shrug off a bunch of poor black and Arab people having their livelihoods burned to the ground.

          1. That’s just old fashioned leftwing disrespect for private property and minorities who aren’t on the dole.

            1. That and BROKEN WINDOWS! STIMULUS!!1!11!!!!!! /Kruggernuts

          2. Stop thinking so small Irish. Aim big, go for the Irish menage, Lauren can bartend for you and ESB.

        3. He’s not finding the downside to ENB’s statement.

        4. an estimated 300 percent crazier

          Please provide an example of something 300% crazier than constantly gushing about about a communist pope

      2. I know that is her point. First, her point isn’t really very valid. Post 911, hijackings are a different and much worse threat than they were in the 60s. Second, someone who believed in the TSA could point to the fact that hijackings rarely happen now and used to happen a lot in the past as evidence that airport security works. And in fairness, they would have a point. That may not be the entire truth of course. Maybe other factors that have nothing to do with airport security have contributed to the decline in hijackings. Even still, just because correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation, it still can mean causation and is in most cases strong evidence for causation.

        That was my point.

        1. “someone who believed in the TSA could point to the fact that hijackings rarely happen now and used to happen a lot in the past as evidence that airport security works”

          Except we know for a fact that it doesn’t (cf. 95% fail rate).

          Hijackings don’t happen anymore because back in the old days the common wisdom was that if you were on a plane that was being hijacked, you stayed quiet and hoped for the best because odds of survival were very good.

          After 9/11 when the idea of people hijacking planes and then intentionally crashing them to kill thousands became a thing, the common wisdom became that if you were on a plane that was being hijacked, jump the guy, tear him to pieces, and throw those pieces out the hatch while spitting on them.

          That is what brought an end to hijackings, not TSA.

          1. the common wisdom became that if you were on a plane that was being hijacked, jump the guy, tear him to pieces, and throw those pieces out the hatch while spitting on them.

            Don’t forget about pissing on them and using some of the more absorbent pieces to wipe your ass.

        2. someone who believed in the TSA could point to the fact that hijackings rarely happen now and used to happen a lot in the past as evidence that airport security works. And in fairness, they would have a point.

          No they wouldn’t. The decline in hijackings happened ~31 years before 9/11 when airports/ airlines installed metal detectors and X-Ray machines staffed by private security. The post 9/11 federalization of airport security and all the security theater bullshit that goes along with it has had little to no effect on airport security except to give potential terrorists a nice big “soft target” (the security lines themselves) to attack, which we saw play out last week in Belgium.

          1. The decline in hijackings happened ~31 years before 9/11 when airports/ airlines installed metal detectors and X-Ray machines staffed by private security.

            True. But the decline happened over a time where we went from no security to fairly significant security. Security was pretty significant before 911.

            The argument is not for TSA but for the need for airport security in general. I don’t see how the supports her point. We had a hijacking problem, implemented security measures and it largely went away. Post 911, we realized the stakes were higher than we thought and increased security accordingly.

            1. “We had a hijacking problem, implemented security measures and it largely went away”

              The takeaway is that in the early 70s airports and airlines took it *upon themselves* to implement security *in an effective manner* and *in response to a real problem*.

              Post-9/11 security theater is a *proven ineffective* response *by the government* to something that all by itself became *less* of a problem after 9/11 because of the change in attitude it engendered.

              If your argument is “we,” i.e. the government, need to “do more” in the name of security because of this incident, you haven’t gotten there yet.

        3. So, all that proof supplied above didn’t dissuade you at all in your opinion that a military state is really for our own good even though they violate our rights daily and there’s no more or less threat now than there was then?

          You are very useful sir.

          1. Why do you think I had that opinion? My point is that ENB wasn’t making her argument well. That doesn’t say anything about my ultimate opinion of it. I was commenting on her case for it.

            You sir are pretty much usless.

            1. So, all of your above commentary supporting the TSA and it’s intrusions upon our basic rights should just be ignored then? Or are your arguments totally divorced from your opinions on the subject? It’s one or the other, but if it’s the latter then I guess you’re just arguing for the sake of being argumentative which explains why your thoughts on the subject are disjointed and illogical.

              That still doesn’t explain why you ignore all the above salient arguments about why you’re terribly wrong on the subject. It also doesn’t explain that, when you do address those arguments, you misrepresent the argument to fit your ‘state knows best’ opinion.


              “Second, someone who believed in the TSA could point to the fact that hijackings rarely happen now and used to happen a lot in the past as evidence that airport security works. And in fairness, they would have a point.”

              Yeah, to hell with the Bill of Rights! If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear? Am I right John?

  8. If seat cushions can become flotation devices, why can’t army rests become stun batons? Seriously, if I’d have been president on 9/11, we’d still be flying the friendly skies, dammit.

    1. If the passengers had been armed, there would have never been a 911. You are exactly right.

      1. That’s why the TSA has make sure all the passengers are disarmed…oh, wait….

        1. Well, 5% of them anyways.

          1. +95% failure rate

      2. Eh. There were a bunch of dudes with boxcutters. The issue on 9/11 was that people on those planes didn’t realize the whackjobs planned to fly them into buildings and had their own pilots for the task.

      3. I suggested a few weeks ago chatting with some guests. The visitor from Florida nodded in assent, while the visitor from the UK looked at me as I should be locked up.

  9. Perspective? Perspective? What the fuck has that ever done for anyone?

    1. SHUT THE FUCK UP AND DEPORT MUSLIMS

      1. MOOSLIMS? WHERE MOOSLIMS AT?!

        1. Mexico. We should launch an invasion.

          1. “It’ll be YUUUUUGE!!!”

  10. Journalists angry that Obama lectured them on how to do their jobs in covering Trump. Don’t mind when his administration passes regulations that tell everyone else how they can do theirs.

    1. Political reporters and commentators are striking back at President Obama, who delivered a speech Monday night that rapped the news media for what he said was superficial reporting and an unwillingness refute untrue statements from political figures.

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

      *breathes*

      AAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

      *wipes tear*

      Good one.

      1. Yeah, I’m really not sure he should want to open that particular can of worms. Although I doubt he worries too much about the media refuting his untrue statements. Except for this racists at Faux News, natch.

  11. I don’t know if you guys are familiar with the hijacking that resulted in a crash in the water off the Comoros Islands, but that particular pilot had been hijacked TWICE before. And Ethiopian Airways is actually FAA certified and one of the safest carriers in Africa.

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  13. A generation of skyjackers evploited this naivete.

    Either Koerner has a foreign accent or ENB has somehow managed to sneak a typo into a copy and paste.

  14. I bet the guy didn’t even really have a bomb.

    Airline hijackers should be beaten to death by the passengers, and then their corpses should be smeared with bacon grease and pig shit at the first opportunity.

    1. The first opportunity is probably at baggage claim, unless travel size packages of bacon grease and pig shit would be big enough to do the job effectively.

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  16. Now Hamas and and PLO inspired social justice warriors are sure to attempt skyjackings in the name of liberal tolerance and freedom just like in the golden age of terrorism. But it will default to those airlines and countries that do a horrible job and are just as likely to fall out of the sky from poor maintenance or drunk flying than some white upper middle class Vassar student with a grudge and a hammer. I say let them try. What’s the worst that happens? Calls for safe space therapists to hold their friends’ hands?

  17. / Mar 26 2015: GERMAN CO-PILOT WAS MUSLIM CONVERT? STAYED AT Bremen Mosque – All evidence indicates that Andreas Lubitz during his six-months break in training as a pilot at Germanwings, converted to Islam. A radical mosque in Bremen is at the center of the investigation. The convert stayed there often.”

    http://www.thegatewaypundit.co… Mar 26 2015: GERMAN CO-PILOT WAS MUSLIM CONVERT? STAYED AT Bremen Mosque – All evidence indicates that Andreas Lubitz during his six-months break in training as a pilot at Germanwings, converted to Islam. A radical mosque in Bremen is at the center of the investigation. The convert stayed there often.

  18. And, many of those US high-jackers (if still alive) reside to this date in Cuba.

  19. What seems “most archaic” about the early era of mass flight is how easily passengers moved about the airports, writes Koerner in the intro to The Skies Belong to Us. “Anyone could stroll onto a tarmac and queue for boarding without holding a ticket or presenting identification. Some flights even permitted passengers to pay their fares after takeoff, as if jets were merely commuter trains with wings. A generation of skyjackers exploited this naivete.”

    I object to the word “naivete”. “Openness” would be a far better word. The world is not the terrible place that politicians and newsmen would have us believe, and the very fact that these things are newsworthy indicates how rare they are.

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