dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y



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From the get-go, hijacking planes had strong potential for political exploitation.
With their capacity for speed and lift-off, planes were able to transgress political boundaries and undermine the concept of nationhood.1 Just after the Peruvia revolution, PanAm pilot Byron Richards discovered how politics and piloting fly side by side. His plane was seized by the world’s first skyjackers when he landed into Arequipa as part of his regular mail run on 21 February 1931, “to drop propaganda over cities in Peru”.2

Between 1947 and 1950 there was a rash of hijackings involving the crossing of the Iron Curtain—the hostile divide between the “Eastern bloc” and the “capitalist West”. Vocabulary evolved accordingly: skyjackers fleeing from east to west were “freedom fighters” or “political refugees”, while those seizing planes to go the other way were branded as criminals and spies. By 1958, The Times had adopted the term ‘hijack’ to describe the act of commandeering a plane.3
The word was popularized during the Prohibition in the US when one bootlegger, while robbing another, would invariably say: “Hi, Jack, raise your hands!”