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

Remembering Robert Swanson, Advertising's 'King Of Jingles'

Robert Swanson revolutionized American advertising and wrote some of the most memorable ad jingles of the 1950s and '60s for products ranging from Campbell's Soup to Pall Mall cigarettes. He died at 95 July 17 at his home in Phoenix, Ariz.
NPR

More Than Just Saying 'Cheese,' Hundreds Sit Test To Become Official Experts

The American Cheese Society will begin proctoring its next Certified Cheese Professional Exam in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday, during the group's annual conference.
WAMU 88.5

Democratic National Convention Day Two: Uniting The Party

An update on day two of the Democratic convention: Bill Clinton takes the stage and ongoing efforts by party leaders to build unity.

WAMU 88.5

How To Help Teens And Children Fight 'Tech Addiction'

Many parents and therapists say obsessive internet use is a very real problem for some teens and children. But the term “internet addiction” is controversial and not officially recognized as a disorder. How to help kids who compulsively use computers and mobile technology.

Leave a Comment

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