A chronicle of the 1972 skyjacking of Western Airlines Flight 701.
Wired contributing editor Koerner (Now the Hell Will Start: One Soldier’s Flight from the Greatest Manhunt of World War II, 2008) explores the story of the longest-distance skyjacking in American history. Motivated by anger toward America (as well as his newfound interest in astrological omens), embittered Vietnam War veteran Roger Holder, along with his girlfriend, Cathy Kerkow, skyjacked a flight en route from Los Angeles to Seattle. An alleged briefcase bomb forced the airline to make good on Holder’s demands, which included money and safe passage to Algeria. In addition, he demanded the freedom of Angela Davis, a communist-sympathizing philosophy professor at UCLA who had lost her position due to her political beliefs and was arrested soon after for her connection to a shootout. A delusional Holder believed it his duty to rescue her, adding a new twist to the skyjackers’ usual requests for money and a rerouted flight. “Then he would fly the Communist philosophy professor to North Vietnam,” Koerner writes, “where the nation’s grateful prime minister would grant her political asylum.” Yet Holder’s carefully hatched plan soon required various split-second decisions, and while Holder and Kerkow eventually touched down in Algeria (without Davis in tow), they hardly achieved the celebrity status they’d imagined. While Koerner focuses on this unlikely plot carried out by an unlikely duo, he expands beyond this single instance to draw attention to the skyjacking epidemic that plagued commercial airlines throughout the early years of flight travel. Between 1961 and 1972, 159 U.S. flights were skyjacked. By making mention of so many skyjackings, Koerner paints a complex portrait of a war-torn and racially charged country, one whose dissenters often took to the skies for revenge.
A riveting, highly readable tale of terror in the skies.