Very Short Book Excerpt July/August 2013

Baffling Plans to Foil Bizarre Terrorists

An excerpt from The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking
More

By the second week of February 1969, 11 flights had been commandeered in the United States—a record annual pace. The hijackers included a former mental patient accompanied by his 3-year-old son, a community-college student armed with a can of bug spray, a Purdue University dropout with a taste for Marxist economics, and a retired Green Beret who claimed that he intended to assassinate Fidel Castro with his bare hands.

At the behest of the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, the Federal Aviation Administration formed a special antihijacking task force to develop possible solutions to the crisis. The group was immediately inundated with thousands of letters from concerned citizens, who recommended inventive ways to frustrate skyjackers: installing trapdoors outside cockpits, arming stewardesses with tranquilizer darts, making passengers wear boxing gloves so they couldn’t grip guns, playing the Cuban national anthem before takeoff and then arresting anyone who knew the lyrics. The most popular suggestion was for the FAA to build a mock version of José Martí International Airport in a South Florida field, so that skyjackers could be duped into thinking they had reached Havana.

—From The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking, by Brendan I. Koerner (published by Crown in June)

Jump to comments
Presented by

Brendan I. Koerner

Brendan I. Koerner is the author of the book The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Ghost Trains of America

Can a band of locomotive experts save vintage railcars from ruin?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Video

How Is Social Media Changing Journalism?

How new platforms are transforming radio, TV, print, and digital

Video

The Place Where Silent Movies Sing

How an antique, wind-powered pipe organ brings films to life

Feature

The Future of Iced Coffee

Are artisan businesses like Blue Bottle doomed to fail when they go mainstream?

Writers

Up
Down
More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In