A Fight for the Skies During the Heyday of Hijacking

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A plane flies over a body of water at sunset. (Gwoeii/Shutterstock)

Today we're used to the fact that you can't board a plane without taking off your shoes and belt, getting your ID checked, your body scanned and clearing your carry-on of pocketknives and bottled water.

But 40 years ago—a time before the way to your terminal was littered with x-ray machines, body-scanners, metal detectors and a small army of security guards—you could just buy a ticket and walk onto a plane.

There were a few drawbacks to the ease of travel. But it was also the golden age of hijacking. From 1961 to 1972, more than 150 commercial flights were hijacked in the U.S.

As the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 continues, Brendan Koerner looks back at the motives of the hijackers of decades past in his new book “The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking.” Koerner has been applying some of the lessons of the "golden age" of hijacking to better understand what might have happened on the mysterious, missing flight. 


Brendan I. Koerner

Produced by:

Mythili Rao


T.J. Raphael

Comments [4]


Not so quick, JP, and indeed, the guest on the show:

"While it’s true that MH370 did turn toward [the west], whoever was at the controls continued to maneuver after that point as well, turning sharply right at VAMPI waypoint, then left again at GIVAL. Such vigorous navigating would have been impossible for unconscious men [incapacitated by smoke or other disaster].

Goodfellow’s theory fails further when one remembers the electronic ping detected by the Inmarsat satellite at 8:11 on the morning of March 8. According to analysis provided by the Malaysian and United States governments, the pings narrowed the location of MH370 at that moment to one of two arcs, one in Central Asia and the other in the southern Indian Ocean. As MH370 flew from its original course toward Langkawi, it was headed toward neither. Without human intervention—which would go against Goodfellow’s theory—it simply could not have reached the position we know it attained at 8:11 a.m."


Mar. 19 2014 03:34 PM
Larry Fisher from Hollywood, Cali.

I'm in L.A. for a couple of weeks and forgot my headphones so I am just winging my comments today on hijackers and the missing plane.

I am pitching a show about a missing plane that is never found and everybody is freaking out about. The passengers luggage end up at their final destination but the plane and the people never show up.

Just kidding but I am tired that our nation is so obsessed about this plane. The people are dead. If we need to make improvements with tracking a plane, I could listen to that debate for a couple of hours.

Of course, I am always excited to hear what the takeaway from the takeaway is and will have to wait till I get back to the house with the incessant chatter about a missing plane. What gives with our society?

Mar. 19 2014 02:43 PM
origene52 from Hot Springs, Ar.

Enjoyed the 'Skunk' Baxter solo lead in to the segment on college debt.

Mar. 19 2014 01:17 PM
JP from Neptune, NJ

The simple explanation is usually the most likely.

Mar. 19 2014 09:41 AM

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