Eastern Airlines Hijackings

List of hijackings

As Eastern Air Lines flew to Cuba, the airline suffered numerous hijackings in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

  • On 24 July 1961, Eastern Air Lines Flight 202, a Lockheed L-188 Electra, was hijacked to Cuba. A fighter plane from Homestead AFB followed the airliner until it reached Cuban airspace.


  • On 20 September 1968, Eastern Air Lines Flight 950, a Boeing 720, was hijacked to Cuba.


  • On 3 February 1969, Eastern Airlines Flight 7 was hijacked to Cuba. The presence of Candid Camera host Alan Funt on the flight led many of the passengers to conclude that the hijacking was actually a prank.


  • On 17 March 1970, Eastern Air Lines Shuttle Flight 1320, carrying passengers from Newark to Boston was hijacked around 7:30 P.M. by John J. Divivo who was armed with a .38 caliber revolver. (See article below.)

A Miami-bound Eastern Airlines, Flight 1, L-1011 Jet
July 19, 1983

MIAMI -- A Miami-bound Eastern Airlines jet carrying 232 people from New York was commandeered and ordered to Cuba early Tuesday in the second such skyjacking in 48 hours and the fourth this month. The lone hijacker was taken into custody in Havana.

None of the 221 passengers or 11 crew members aboard the L-1011 wide-bodied jetliner was reported injured and the plane departed Havana for Miami at 4:07 a.m. EDT after about three hours on the ground at Jose Marti Airport.

The method used in the hijacking was not immediately known, but there were unconfirmed reports the hijacker claimed to have a bomb.

Jack Barker, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman in Atlanta, said the L-1011, Eastern's Flight 1, was 40 miles northeast of Miami when it was diverted to Havana at 12:09 a.m. EDT. The plane then landed safely in Havana at 1:07 a.m. and the unidentified hijacker was taken into custody.

The hijacking of Eastern Flight 1 was the eighth since May 1 and the second in as many days. It also was the fourth skyjacking this month, and the third time an Eastern Airlines jet has been commandeered to Cuba since May 19.

Barker said there were no sky marshals on Flight 1 or on any of the previous jets hijacked to Cuba.

The flurry of hijackings prompted a meeting last week between federal officials and security personnel at Miami International Airport. Four of the eight hijackings this year have originated in Miami.

Federal officials have expressed surprise that hijackers would risk the harsh prison sentences awaiting them in Cuba. The Cuban government has told the State Department that hijackers are now receiving sentences of up to 50 years in Fidel Castro's jails.

June 15, 1983

Eastern Flight 414, A300 Airbus

Miami to New York's LGA Hijacked to Havana

By Richard Wallace and Jeffrey Weiss, The Miami Herald

A Latin man who locked himself in a lavatory of an Eastern Airlines jet used threats of violence to hijack the aircraft to Cuba late Tuesday, officials said. Eastern Flight 414, which was en route from Miami to New York's LaGuardia Airport with 84 passengers and 11 crew members aboard, departed at 9:40 p.m. About 20 minutes later, the pilot radioed "and said he was going to Havana," said Eastern spokesman, Bob Christian.

The hijacking was carried out after a Hispanic man entered a rear lavatory, according to Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jack Barker. The man ordered the crew to take the plane to Cuba. Barker did not know whether the, hijacker carried any weapons. "He just made threats," Barker said by telephone from Atlanta. "We received word that he landed safely in Havana at 11 p.m."There were no reports of injuries. "The important thing is that there has never been a passenger hurt in any of these hijackings," Barker said.

At Miami International Airport Tower, FAA officials described the aircraft as an A300 Airbus, a European-made wide-body jet.The hijacking marked the fourth time a U.S. jetliner had been successfully commandeered to Cuba since the beginning of May.

Tuesday's hijacking was the second involving an Eastern jet in four weeks.
Eastern's Flight 24, a Boeing 727
New York-Bound Jet Hijacked to Cuba
May 19, 1983

MIAMI, May 19— A man who said he wanted to see his wife and family and claimed he had a bomb forced a New York-bound Eastern Airlines jet to fly to Cuba in the third hijacking of a United States airliner to Havana .

Eastern's Flight 24, a Boeing 727 with 132 people aboard, was diverted about 20 minutes after taking off from Miami. The man, ''gesturing wildly'' at the package he carried, according to passengers, demanded, ''Cuba, Cuba!''

''He had a device, about eight inches long and four inches wide, on plywood.'' said one passenger, Philip Perlman, a Miami architect. ''It looked like it contained dynamite and the pieces were wired to flashlight batteries.''

The plane landed in Havana at 3:35 P.M. and returned to Miami with all aboard safe at 6:40 P.M. The hijacker was taken into custody in Cuba.

All but five of the remaining 124 passengers got off in Miami. The five, and the seven crew members, flew to La Guardia Airport on the plane.

Eastern L-1011 JET,  Chicago to Miami
, July 10, 1981
AP Published: July 11, 1981

MIAMI, July 10— Two men today hijacked a jet airliner carrying 180 passengers and 12 crew members from Chicago to Miami and forced the pilot to fly them to Cuba, officials said. When the plane landed in Havana, the two men were arrested and six other passengers got off voluntarily. It was the first hijacking of a United States jet plane to Cuba since last Sept. 17. There were no injuries in the incident, officials said.

William Nettles, assistant special agent in charge of the Miami office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said that the suspected hijackers were apparently Cuban, and added that the other six persons were apparently relatives.The jet, an Eastern Airlines L-1011, landed safely at Havana's Jose Marti Airport at 1:08 P.M., New York time, and the two men were arrested by Cuban security forces, according to Jack Barker, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration in Atlanta.

Passengers Allowed to Shop

The six other persons, two women and four girls, voluntarily left the jet at the same time, Mr. Barker said. Other passengers were allowed to shop in souvenir stores before the refueled jet took off for Miami International Airport, where it arrived at 6 P.M., officials said.

An Eastern Airlines spokesman, Jim Ashlock, speculated that the two men who hijacked the plane were disaffected refugees who came to this country in the 1980 refugee exodus from Mariel harbor in Cuba. Among the passengers were two members of the Jamaican cabinet, Minister of the State, Tony Johnson and Minister of Trade and Commerce, Douglas Vaz.

Jim Freeman, an F.B.I. agent, quoted witnesses as saying that one of the men, brandishing a baby bottle with a lighted wick and filled with what appeared to be a flammable liquid, barged into the cockpit and ordered the plane flown to Havana. Mr. Freeman said the other man, carrying two more apparent gasoline bombs with lighted wicks, stayed in the first-class section.

One of the men ran into the passenger cabin and said, ''Everything is O.K. Everything is O.K. We're going to Cuba,'' according to a passenger, Dorothy Ash of Northfield, Ill. Miss Ash said the hijackers and two women and four girls shook hands and waved to officials who met them outside the plane. She said the girls ranged in age from about 5 to their teens.

The incident came almost a year after a string of 11 hijackings to Cuba began on July 22, 1980, many of them by refugees who became disenchanted with the United States and were desperate to return home. United States officials credited President Fidel Castro of Cuba with helping to halt the hijackings last year by returning the two suspects in the Sept. 17 hijacking to the United States for prosecution.

Mr. Barker said United States officials hoped that the two men involved in the latest hijacking would be returned here.

Hijacking of Eastern Airlines Flight 175)
May 5, 1972.

Frederick William Hahneman (July 5, 1922 - December 17, 1991) was a Honduras-born US citizen convicted of hijacking Eastern Airlines Flight 175 from Allentown, Pennsylvania to Miami, Florida, on May 5, 1972.

Hahneman parachuted from the plane over his native Honduras after extorting $303,000 from Eastern Airlines. Evading a manhunt by the FBI and Honduran police and with a $25,000 bounty on his head, Hahneman went on the run for 28 days before finally surrendering to the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for aircraft hijacking, kidnapping and extortion, serving 12 years.

Hahneman was born in Puerto Castilla, Honduras, to a Honduran mother, Delia Pastore Ordóñez, and an American father, the late William Frederick Hahneman, of San Francisco. It is not known when he was naturalized[citation needed] but he had lived in Easton, Pennsylvania, since 1960.[1] He was an engineer and married to Mary Jane Hahneman. They had two sons.[2] Neighbours of the couple told investigators later that Hahneman was a "mystery" to them and that Mary, going blind, raised the children alone

The hijacking:On May 2, 1972 Hahneman checked into the Americus hotel in Allentown as a well dressed businessman under the assumed name George Ames. Staff remembered him as "polite" but got the impression that Ames had "put up a wall around himself". After asking directions to a travel agent, staff later reported Ames saying he was "going to take a plane" later that morning.

On the morning of May 5 at Lehigh Valley International Airport (known at the time as Allentown–Bethlehem–Easton International Airport), Hahneman managed to board Eastern Airlines Flight 175, a Boeing 727 jet, armed with a handgun. Shortly after take-off, Hahneman threatened the crew and informed the pilot, Captain W.L. Hendershott, that he was taking over the plane and wanted $303,000 from the airline.

While the captain informed the 48 passengers that "there is an armed man aboard", Hahneman held the chief stewardess hostage at the rear of the plane. One of the passengers, New York Times reporter Neil Amdur, wrote later, "From the moment the captain uttered those chilling words...I felt a sense of fear I had never known."[7]

The captain would later tell FBI investigators that Hahneman "talked like there was another country and he wanted the money for a cause."

Two other passengers, Frank Valek, a safety inspector for Western Electric, and Robert Palazzo, the mayor of Columbia, N.J., both found Hahneman's gun pressed into their stomachs as they went to the rest room and magazine rack, respectively. Other passengers prayed.

Flight 175 was scheduled to land at Washington's National Airport but Hahneman ordered the captain to land at Dulles International Airport. He did so at 11:15am. No passengers were allowed to leave the plane while Eastern Airlines worked to meet Hahneman's demands.[10] These were $303,000 in cash, six parachutes, two bush knives, two jump suits, two crash helmets, fuel, food and two cartons of his favourite Benson and Hedges cigarettes.

Satisfied that his demands had been met, at 1:13pm Hahneman allowed the passengers to disembark one by one, including one stewardess. The rest of the 6[15] crew he kept hostage and ordered the captain to take off again at 1:50pm. Soon after becoming airborne Hahneman decided he didn't like the $100 bill denominations given to him by Eastern. He ordered the plane to return to Dulles and demanded the money in larger bills. It took Eastern four hours to comply with this difficult demand, with some of the bills being flown in from Miami.

Boeing 727 with the aft airstair open, Hahneman's means of escape.

Satisfied once again, Hahneman ordered the captain to take off and fly to the Central American republic of Honduras, his country of birth. However, en route the plane's hydraulic pump developed a problem and the captain told Hahneman they had to divert to New Orleans. Hahneman was angry and when they landed in New Orleans he demanded another plane from Eastern. When it was ready he put a noose around Captain Hendershott's neck and forced the crew out at gunpoint, using them as a human shield to get safely onto the new plane.

The remainder of Flight 175 passed without incident and on May 6, around 4am, over the pitch dark Honduran jungle, Hahneman ordered the captain to slow the plane's airspeed. He put on one of the parachutes he'd demanded and opened the rear door. Clutching his money-filled attache case, Frederick Hahneman jumped from the aft airstair into the dense undergrowth below, and disappeared.

Manhunt: In the US the story faded from the news but in Honduras, Hahneman was on the run from the FBI and the Honduran police. He moved around between friends and family, trying to stay one step ahead.[21] Eastern Airlines put up a $25,000 reward for his capture leading to a tip off that Hahneman was still in Honduras.[22] With his picture now everywhere in Honduras and exposure close, Hahneman sought refuge with his old friend and fellow engineer, José Gómez Rovelo.

On June 1, Acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray III obtained a warrant in the US District Court of Alexandria, Va., for Hahneman's arrest. The FBI had put together biographical information Hahneman had let slip to the crew during their 20-hour ordeal, with a photograph they possessed, to identify Hahneman as their prime suspect. They said Hahneman's movements in rural Honduras had been tracked by the Honduran police. With the net closing, Rovelo convinced Hahneman that he was too old to be on the run. Hahneman agreed. At 1am on June 2, Hahneman and Rovelo walked into the US embassy in Tegucigalpa and Hahneman surrendered.

Aftermath: Hahneman was in custody but the money was not. He told authorities that he had deposited the ransom in "the Chinese Communist Bank in Hong Kong", via a mysterious Panamanian "contact".

On September 11, 1972, Hahneman waived his right to a jury trial and plead guilty to a charge of air piracy, kidnapping and extortion. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on September 29, 1972 in the US District Court in Alexandria, Va, and sent to the federal prison in Atlanta. As he left the federal building for prison, Hahneman was asked by a reporter what he'd done with the money. "None of your bloody business," he replied.

On May 8, 1973 the FBI announced they had recovered the $303,000 ransom. In the press release they said, "Upon recovery of the money a check was made of the National Crime Information Center, FBI Headquarters, Washington D.C., which determined the serial numbers tallied with the ransom money paid in connection with the hijacking.They provided no further details of how or where they recovered the money.

Bureau of Prisons records show Frederick Hahneman was paroled on March 13, 1984. On August 17, 1984 he was discharged. The Bureau has no further records of him.

Speculation about motives: Hahneman's arrest reignited interest in the case and his quiet Easton neighborliness was alive with agents and reporters asking questions. His blind wife and his sons' lives were spread across the local press. Fed by the FBI's reluctance to reveal details of how and where they recovered the money, along with Hahneman's political claims while in custody and the statement from the captain, there was much speculation about Hahneman's frequent foreign trips, rumors that he'd deposited the $303,000 in a communist bank, and claims that Hahneman and his cousin Roberto Martínez Ordóñez, a delegate with the Honduran mission to the United Nations, were plotting a revolution in Honduras.

Mary Hahneman maintained that she had no contact with her husband and didn't even know he'd been released. Asked after his 1984 discharge, she said, "I still don't know why he did it. If you ever find out, will you please tell me?

Hijacking of Flight 1320, March 18, 1970

                  Flight 1320 Hijacking and the Heroism of

         Captain Robert Wilbur Jr. and First Officer, James Hadley

By Dorothy C. Gagnon

On Tuesday, March 17, 1970, Captain Robert Wilbur, a 35 year-old former Air Force Pilot and his First Officer, James Hadley, 31, had the first death caused by air piracy in U. S. History that took place over Boston, Massachusetts. Captain Wilbur and Jim Hartley had an Eastern crew of 5 and 68 passengers aboard. (Left photo: Captain Wilbur and his wife, Anita Wilbur holding the Dadelian Award given for his heroism.)

They both agreed to split the legs of their flight. They were on the leg EWR/Boston when the Flight Attendant called on the intercom and told Captain Wilbur that she had a passenger that wanted to speak to him. Captain Wilbur said “I can’t talk now”. Flight Attendant said, “Captain you don’t understand, he is demanding to see you and he has a gun.” The hijacker had smuggled a .38 revolver aboard the plane.

Captain Wilbur had the Flight Attendant bring back the hijacker to the cockpit. Captain Wilbur explained that in ground school they were taught to bring the hijacker back to the cockpit, and  to do what he says. So the first words he said were “Where are we going?” John DiVivo  the hijacker said, “Fly East until you run out of gas.”

Just then the tower called and said 27 west. Captain Wilbur answered back, that he is unable to turn west. We are now flying east; we have a problem here (not knowing if this was this guy’s idea of suicide). He disconnected with Traffic Control and Jim Hartley grappled for DiVivo and gunshots were heard, and then it went off again. Bang! Bang! Bang! He felt numbness in his arms. Jim Hartley was shot in the chest but managed to disable the hijacker and grabbed for the weapon. He took the gun and put it on console.

Captain Wilbur said I got back on the radio and called Traffic Control and said we need a speedy handling, Co-Pilot shot, need doctor. Landing at Gate 12. He made a soft turn a mile out, but the hijacker DiVivo wakes up; Captain Wilbur took the gun and hit the guy over the head. We were making our Final Approach and I landed the airplane.

FAA did a wonderful job. Hijacker kicked open the door before he went down, and we got the passengers attention then.  I said, “Get that guy out of here and to the hospital.” Captain Wilbur said it was expedient handling in Boston. 35-45 minutes.

It was a tragedy that James Hartley lost his life and that the Captain Wilbur was shot twice, once in each arm. Both were declared heroes and on March 24, 1970 the U. S. Senate passed a resolution that commended them both for extraordinary heroism and competence. DiVivo was charged with murder and arraigned at the East Boston, MA District court. He was sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for mental evaluation and then to Suffolk County Jail at  Charles Street in Boston, Ma. While awaiting trial, John DiVivo killed himself on October 31, 1970.

EAL Flight 224, November 1968 in Birmingham

 Captain Estan Fuller

By Dorothy C. Gagnon, Webmaster

The Pilot, Captain Estan Fuller and the First Officer, Boyd Connally disarmed a hijacker, November 1, 1968, aboard the Eastern Airlines Flight 224 that was hijacked at the Birmingham, Alabama airport.

A young 17 year old boy who was a passenger that boarded the plane in Mobile, identified later as Roget Pastorcich, had brought an un-assembled sawed-off shotgun in his carry-on bag. Fifteen passengers disembarked the plane, but he did not. He hurriedly assembled it after landing in Birmingham, and then made his move when he saw Captain Estan Fuller walking down the corridor. He followed the Captain into the cockpit and held the gun on both he and the First Officer, demanding they fly him to Saigon.

The Pilot tried to keep the boy talking as they saw one of the Eastern Ramp Serviceman, W. L. “Bill” Dobbs, who was working in the interior of the plane, approaching behind the boy and the FO was watching the gun. Bill tackled the boy and the FO knocked the gun upwards, grabbed the gun and they held the boy until FBI authorities came.

 W. L. (Bill) Dobbs, Disarming  A Hijacker

(EAL Flight 224, November 1968 in Birmingham)

                                                                                                               By Dorothy C. Gagnon


This article is written as a dedication to one of our own Eastern Ramp Serviceman, W. L. “Bill” Dobbs, who passed away January 13, 2003, followed by his wife who passed away September 2015. Dianne Dempsey, Bill’s daughter, sent me a copy of the letter she found in Bill’s Eastern memorabilia along with the Birmingham News article, though as Bill requested, you will not see him recognized in the article.


The Eastern Airlines Flight 224 was hijacked November 1, 1968 at the Birmingham airport. Bill was involved in helping Captain Estan Fuller and First Officer, Boyd Connally disarm a hijacker. Bill was working in the interior of the plane  when a young 17 year old boy who was a passenger that boarded the plane in Mobile, identified later as Roget Pastorcich, had brought an unassembled sawed-off shotgun in his carry-on bag. Fifteen passengers disembarked the plane, but he did not. He hurriedly assembled it after landing in Birmingham, and then made his move when he saw the Captain walking down the corridor. He followed into the cockpit and held the gun on the pilots, demanding they fly him to Saigon to see his brother who was fighting in the army there.  


Bill saw what was happening and quietly came up behind the boy. The Pilot tried to keep the boy talking as they saw Bill approaching behind the boy and the FO was watching the gun. Bill tackled the boy and the FO knocked the gun upwards, grabbed the gun and they held the boy until FBI authorities came. Bill did not want any mention of his name in the news, but he did receive a letter of commendation for his “quick thinking” in helping to disarm the hijacker from EAL. Dianne does remember that EAL gave her parents a lot of free travel passes for them and family members, in thanks for his bravery.

Bill was also well known to the EAL family because he made custom fishing rods. Many pilots and other personnel who were fisherman would order the custom-made rods and pick them up on a return flight to Birmingham. 

Bill Dobbs and his EAL Air Freight Bulldog Pin

Hijacking Eastern Flight EA202

Monday 24 July 1961 Lockheed L-188 Electra

 Location:Havana-José Martí International Airport (HAV) (   Cuba)

Phase: En route (ENR) Nature:Domestic Scheduled Passenger Departure airport:Miami International Airport, FL (MIA/KMIA), United States of America Destination airport:Tampa International Airport, FL (TPA/KTPA), USA


Eastern flight 202 departed Miami (MIA) on a domestic flight to Tampa, New Orleans and Dallas.

One hijacker demanded to be taken to Cuba. A fighter plane from the Homestead AFB followed the Electra until it had reached Cuban airspace.

Sources: » Plane hijacked, forced to land in Cuba (Lincoln Evening Journal, 1961-07-24)