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High Skies Heists: The Ten Most Infamous Plane Hijackings in History

Air travel, symbolizing human ingenuity's triumph over geographical bounds, has occasionally been marred by the audacity of hijackers. These acts, driven by motives ranging from ransom demands to political statements, have not only endangered lives but have also left indelible marks on international aviation security protocols. Here are ten of the most famous plane hijacking stories that have shocked and captivated the world.

#### 1. D.B. Cooper (1971)

Perhaps the most enigmatic hijacking in aviation history, D.B. Cooper hijacked Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305, securing a $200,000 ransom before parachuting into the unknown over southwestern Washington. Despite extensive manhunts and investigations, Cooper's identity and fate remain one of the greatest unsolved mysteries.

#### 2. TWA Flight 847 (1985)

TWA Flight 847 was en route from Athens to Rome when it was hijacked by members of Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad. The ordeal lasted 17 days, involving multiple stops, including Beirut and Algiers. The hijackers demanded the release of Lebanese prisoners, leading to a tense standoff that ended with the hostages' release but claimed the life of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem.

#### 3. Pan Am Flight 73 (1986)

Pan Am Flight 73, grounded in Karachi, Pakistan, became the stage for a harrowing siege when four armed Palestinian hijackers took control. The standoff ended in tragedy with 20 dead and over 100 wounded. The incident highlighted significant lapses in airport security and led to tighter security measures worldwide.

#### 4. Lufthansa Flight 181 (1977)

Also known as the "Landshut" hijacking, Lufthansa Flight 181 was commandeered by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The hijacking sparked a daring rescue operation by the German counter-terrorism group GSG 9 in Mogadishu, Somalia, which successfully freed all 86 hostages and killed three of the four hijackers.

#### 5. Air France Flight 139 (1976)

Air France Flight 139, carrying 248 passengers from Tel Aviv to Paris, was hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the German Revolutionary Cells and diverted to Entebbe, Uganda. The Israeli government launched a bold rescue mission, Operation Entebbe, which resulted in the rescue of 102 hostages.

#### 6. Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961 (1996)

Hijacked by three Ethiopians seeking asylum in Australia, Flight 961 crash-landed in the Indian Ocean near the Comoros Islands after running out of fuel, leading to the deaths of 125 of the 175 passengers and crew. The incident was notable for being captured live on video and highlighted the dangers of oceanic hijackings.

#### 7. American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 (2001)

The most devastating hijackings occurred on September 11, 2001, when 19 al-Qaeda terrorists seized control of four commercial airplanes. Two of these, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, were flown into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, causing nearly 3,000 deaths. These attacks changed global aviation and security policies forever.

#### 8. Malaysia Airlines Flight 653 (1977)

Malaysia Airlines Flight 653 was hijacked en route from Penang to Kuala Lumpur, leading to the crash of the aircraft and the loss of all 100 passengers and crew on board. The perpetrators and their motives remain unidentified, making it one of Malaysia's most tragic and enduring mysteries.

#### 9. El Al Flight 426 (1968)

El Al Flight 426 from Rome to Tel Aviv was hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, marking the first hijacking of an El Al aircraft. The incident ended without casualties, but it ushered in an era of heightened security for the Israeli national airline.

#### 10. Indian Airlines Flight 814 (1999)

Indian Airlines Flight 814 was hijacked during a flight from Kathmandu to Delhi and eventually landed in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The hijackers demanded the release of three militants in exchange for the hostages. The week-long crisis ended with the release of the hostages in exchange for the militants, raising questions about negotiations with hijackers.

These stories, while showcasing human resolve in the face of danger, also underscore the vulnerabilities inherent in civil aviation and the ongoing battle between security forces and those who seek to exploit the skies for nefarious ends. They serve as somber reminders of the need for vigilance, preparedness, and the importance of international cooperation in ensuring the safety of air travelers around the globe.

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