21st February 2011 marks the 80th anniversary of the first recorded hijacking and the birth of aviation security. On the same day in 1931, in Peru, Captain Byron Rickards flew his Ford Tri-Motor aircraft from Lima to Arequipa only to be greeted on landing by armed revolutionaries wanting the aircraft to distribute propaganda leaflets over the region. Rickards refused to fly anywhere, was held captive for 10 days and was only released when he agreed to fly one of the revolutionaries back to Lima. Rickards also had the misfortune to be the first Captain to be hijacked twice – on 3 August 1961, a father and son team entered the cockpit of his Continental Airlines flight preparing to depart from El Paso and demanded to be taken to Cuba. The FBI shot out the aircraft’s tyres and the hijackers surrendered.
Rickards experiences were on the ground, but many incidents were aerial. The desire to divert aircraft to Cuba became an increasingly common occurrence in the 1960’s, a decade in which the world recorded 364 hijackings. And, by 1968, the Arab-Israeli conflict was making the headlines around the globe as Palestinian groups, in the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War, realised the potential for statehood was becoming an increasingly distant dream and took their cause to the skies over Europe. The Checkpoint of the Past was born…
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