Dubai: A hijacker seized an EgyptAir plane on Tuesday and forced it to land on the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Here are five times that plane cockpits were taken over by hijackers.

D.B. Cooper

A man who became known as D. B. Cooper hijacked Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305, a Boeing 727-100 aircraft flying from Portland to Seattle, receiving US$200,000 in ransom and parachuting from the plane the day before Thanksgiving, 1971. Like several other American men of his time, Cooper was dressed in a dark suit and a tie with a pearl tie pin, and a white shirt — with a dented hat and a briefcase. He went by Dan Cooper and behaved like a gentleman. But something was off. Just as the plane took off, Cooper gave a young stewardess a note that read “I have a bomb,” after which he showed her the inside of his briefcase.

After informing the captain, the plane landed in Seattle and FBI agents provided the ransom money and parachutes he had requested. After refuelling and releasing all passengers, the aircraft took off again and flew toward Reno, Nevada. Instructing the flight attendants to move to the cockpit, Cooper opened the aft stairs and parachuted from the plane during a rainstorm. To this day, he has never actually been caught for his crimes.


On September 11, 2001, 19 terrorists hijacked American Airlines Flight 11, American Airlines Flight 77, United Airlines Flight 93, and United Airlines Flight 175 to perform suicide bombing missions. Of the four flights, three were used as cruise missile on buildings, making it the most deadly hijacking of aircraft history.

The fourth flight was sent to hit the White House but was diverted by the crew and passengers when they attacked, causing the plane to crash killing all inside in a field in Pennsylvania. Altogether, an estimated 3,000 people were killed. Within hours of the attacks, the FBI was able to determine the names and in many cases the individual details of the suspected pilots and hijackers. What makes the 9/11 attacks so unique is that its hijackers had no political or monetary demands.

Flight 814

Near the end of 1999, Kashmiri militants from Pakistan hijacked an Indian Airlines aircraft and forced it to divert to Kandahar in Afghanistan. The motive behind the hijack was primarily to negotiate the release of 35 Islamic activists in Indian jails and seek $200 million in cash.

Indian delegates, however, convinced the hijackers to drop their demand to the release of three prisoners. The three militants landed in Kandahar, with hostages on-board set free and sent back to India. The hijackers released 27 of 176 passengers in Dubai but fatally stabbed one and wounded several others.

Flight 426

The longest recorded hijacking in aircraft history took place in Algiers when an El Al plan was seized by three members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) on July 23, 1968. Initially travelling from London to Rome, the plane was diverted to Algiers.

All Non-Israeli passengers were released, leaving 12 Israeli passengers and the crew of 10. At the end of the first week, 10 Israeli women and children had been released. It took 40 days of negotiations to reach an agreement and everyone, including the hijackers, were freed.

Flight 648

The case of EgyptAir Flight 648 will always provide a blueprint on how not to deal with terrorists. After three Palestinian members of the Abu Nidal Organisation took control of the plane travelling from Athens to Cairo on November 23, 1985, an Egyptian Security Service member opened fire and killed one of the hijackers. In return, he was shot and killed. As a result of the exchange of bullets, the fuselage of the plane was punctured, and the pilot was forced to descend.

Low on fuel, the plane landed in Malta against the wishes of Maltese authorities, and a stand-off commenced. Eleven passengers and two injured flight attendants were released, but Maltese Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici’s uncompromising approach resulted in the execution of two American passengers. Egyptian commandos would then storm the plane, causing a fiery scene in which 56 of the 88 remaining passengers were killed. In total, 60 of the 92 passengers initially on board were killed.


—Joseph Gedeon, with inputs from agencies and