Booking A Flight For The 'Golden Age Of Hijacking' | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Booking A Flight For The 'Golden Age Of Hijacking'

Play associated audio

Imagine air travel in the 1960s when flying the skies meant luxury. You could light up a cigarette on board and enjoy a five-star meal.

Going to the airport wasn't a hassle. There were no security screenings, and boarding a plane was just as easy as getting on a bus.

"You'd be dropped off at the curb and walk through the whole terminal onto the tarmac, to the top of the boarding stairs and sometimes onto the plane without a ticket, without showing anyone your ID," Brendan Koerner, author of The Skies Belong To Us, tells NPR's Arun Rath. "Without having your body or your luggage searched at all."

Koerner says the ease of air travel came with big consequences: People seeking money or fame would carry a gun or a bomb on board a plane and take it hostage.


Interview Highlights

On the U.S. skyjacking epidemic

By the end of the '60s, you were having 30-40 hijackings a year. There's a couple of great ones. Raffaele Minichiello, an Italian-American Marine, who had a pay dispute with the Marines, decided to solve his problem by hijacking a plane from Los Angeles to his native Italy where he was greeted as a folk hero and ended up signing a contract to star in a spaghetti Western after serving just 18 months in prison there.

On the romanticism of hijackings

A lot of people saw them as an adventure. I think part of that goes into the way these hijackers operated. They weren't out to cause mass death and destruction. They were in it to negotiate. And that made sense for the airlines to comply with them. [...] It was really a more transactional experience than a kind of terrorist experience.

On implimenting airport security

The first year that they had this universal screening, there were actually no hijackings that year after they instituted it. Passenger numbers actually went up about 15 percent. So people liked the idea of not having their plane commandeered by a person with a bomb.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Little House,' Big Demand: Never Underestimate Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wilder's memoir reveals that she witnessed more violence than you'd ever know from her children's books. The South Dakota State Historical Society can barely keep up with demand for the autobiography.
NPR

Coffee Horror: Parody Pokes At Environmental Absurdity Of K-Cups

The market for single-serving coffee pods is dominated by Keurig's K-Cups. But they aren't recyclable, and critics say that's making a monster of an environmental mess. Meet the K-Cup Godzilla.
NPR

Obama's Budget Would Undo Broad Cuts Made In 2013

The across-the-board spending cuts made in 2013, known as the sequester, reduced defense and domestic budgets by hundreds of millions each. Republicans are expected to fiercely defend that plan.
NPR

Charles Townes, Laser Inventor, Black Hole Discoverer, Dies At 99

Physicist Charles Townes died Tuesday. He was a key inventor of the laser and won the Nobel Prize for his discovery in 1964. But his career didn't end there.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.