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1 NOVEMBER 1969
FIRST TRANSATLANTIC HIJACK

 

Vietnam vet Raffaele Minichiello forces a TWA Flight 85 out of Los Angeles to make a detour across two continents and an ocean. Two days and 6,869 miles later the plane lands in Rome, accomplishing the world’s longest and first transatlantic skyjack. On the tarmac he convinces police to give him a getaway car, and speeding away in it, Minichiello manages to outrun the Italian police. The car is later found abandoned in the Appian hills of the Italian countryside as helicopters and search dogs unsuccessfully continue to track him down. It is only five hours later that Minichiello is found. He is taking haven in a country church—The Sanctuary of Divine Love. He is wearing Bermuda shorts, and it is his 20th birthday.
In Italy, Raffaele’s skyjacking is acclaimed as the most exciting event since the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Touted as victim of the imperialist American war machine, he becomes an instant celebrity. Marriage proposals pour in. Movie starlets tearfully confess their love, and Minichiello is offered a leading role in an Italian spaghetti Western. He spent $15.50 on his plane ticket.