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Motives of Monsters:

By Clinton Shiell
March 15, 2002

Clinton Shiell helps us understand why terrorists and air pirates seek to
cause mayhem and destruction using technology designed to liberate humankind.

In the aftermath of the surreal events of September 11th, like many
others I found myself asking the question: Why? Why would a seemingly normal person take control of a flight - and in some cases, take the lives of all on board? After extensive research I found the three main categories that hijackings fall into."

    1. Revenge.
    2. Money.
    3. Political reasons.

A fully laden airliner can be a dangerous tool for an individual "hell bent" on revenge. This was highlighted on September 11th. But there are other, less notorious, but equally devastating cases where an airliner has been used as a weapon. In 1987 David Burke, a flight attendant for Pacific Southwest Airlines was dismissed for the theft of $50. On December 7th he learned that his employer Ray Thompson had turned down his appeal. He left Thompson's office and bought a ticket on PSA1771, the flight that he knew Thompson would board later that afternoon. He used his employee credentials to bypass security and get his .44 Magnum on the aircraft. When the BAe146 reached 33,000ft he stood up, passed Thompson an airsickness bag and entered the Lavatory. Seconds later he burst out of the toilet, drew his weapon, and shot Thompson. He then entered the flightdeck, executed the flightcrew, and put the Bae146 into a 100o nose down attitude. He then shot himself.

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N350PS - The Bae-146 that fell victim to David Burke.
Photo © Ted Quackenbush

The out of control airliner hit a paddock in southern California at 720mph, killing 43 innocent men women and children. On that airsickness bag was written: "It's kind of ironical, isn't it? I asked for leniency for my family, remember? Well, I got none, and now you'll get none."

Most cases of revenge end with the hijacker killing themselves, or they are captured while trying to do in themselves. This was the case on board Federal Express 705 from Memphis to San Hose. The DC-10 freighter was crewed by Captain David Sanders, First Officer Jim Tucker, and Flight Engineer Andy Peterson. On the jumpseat was FedEx Flight Engineer Auburn Calloway. His agenda was simple - subdue the crew and crash the fully fueled DC-10 into the FedEx nerve centre at Memphis International. To do this he brought an armory in a guitar case: two claw hammers, two mallets, a knife, and a speargun. All the weapons were designed to do injuries to the crew that would fit with a high impact accident (except the speargun - this was a last resort) to ensure that it would look like an accident, so Calloway's family would get his life insurance. Fifteen minutes in to the flight and without warning, Calloway retrieved his hammer and speargun and started his grizzly job.

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This was NOT going to be a normal
flight for the Crew of FedEx 705.
Photo © Michael Schmidt

He hit the crew with blows that he thought would certainly kill them, or at least knock them unconscious. He would find no such luck. This flight crew wasn't going to go quietly. Capt. Sanders and F/E Peterson left their seats and turned the tables on their attacker. While the fight raged in the cargo hold, now half-paralyzed F/O Tucker used the DC-10 to the crew's advantage, banking the airliner past 30 degrees in an attempt to give the wounded crew the upper hand against their "crazed-colleague." The fight raged for the whole return trip: the flight path looking more like a rollercoaster ride than a professional airline operation. With police, FBI and emergency vehicles ready on the ground the DC-10 finally touched down after 30 minutes of aerial hand-to-hand combat. When armed officers boarded the jet the fight was still raging - the aircraft interior was covered with blood. But the crew of flight 705 had beaten the hijacker, and although they lived they would never fly again. The catalyst for the 30 minutes of terror that lead to the destruction of three men's careers? FedEx discovered that Calloway was lying about the hours in his logbook. Auburn Calloway is now serving life in prison in an Atlanta Federal prison.

Revenge is not the only reason for hijackings; human greed is another. One of the earliest airline bombings was done for personal gain. A United Airlines DC-6B with 44 people on board was blown out of the sky for $37,500. John Gilbert Graham saw his mother off at Denver's Stapleton airport with the knowledge that he would never see her again. He moved from the departure lounge to a life insurance vending machine and bought a $37,500 policy on his mother's life, for he knew that the plane would crash - he had just seen to it that she was traveling with a bomb in her baggage. The irony of the situation was that he would never get the money from his mother's policy because he didn't get his mother to sign it. After discovering this oversight he confessed to the FBI.

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A sons love: Graham waves a final good bye.
Photo © Bill ARMSTRONG

Perhaps the most famous case of sky crimes for money is the story of D.B Cooper, onboard a Northwest Orient Boeing 727. He threatened to blow up the 727 if he was not given four parachutes and $200,000. He landed at Seattle-Tacoma where his demands were met, and the passengers were off-loaded. The 727 took-off and when the aircraft was over Southern Washington he jumped, leaving the world wondering: What happened to D.B Cooper? He was never found. $5,800 of the ransom was found by an eight year old boy, but D.B Cooper was never found, dead or alive. He is thought to be the only successful hijacker in the history of the United States.

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D.B Cooper's Last view of the Boeing 727.
Photo © Chris Coduto

Political reasons are very broad, they range from hijackers wanting asylum, to wanting prisoners released or even wanting a country to change its foreign policies. Within the last three years two hijackings occurred that had political links: Indian Airlines 814 and the Ariana Airlines Boeing 727 at Stanstead Airport. The passengers and crew on Indian Airlines flight 814 were taken hostage for 8 days straight. The terrorist's demands were met and they were given free passage to Afghanistan.

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The passengers and crew of Indian 814 called
an aircraft similar to this home for 8 days.
Photo © Andrew Hunt

Political hijackers are often seeking political asylum. The most recent example of this is the Ariana Airlines hijacking. The Boeing 727 was hijacked and flown from Afghanistan to the U.K via Moscow. The hijackers eventually surrendered after they were told that the British government would look at their case.

It is a sad society that we live in where men and women can take an airliner full of hostages and use other peoples lives as "bargaining chips" to get what they want, whether that be money, revenge or to accomplish political objectives. The days of conventional hijackings are over. They dissolved the moment AA11 hit the first tower. The passengers and crew on American Airlines flight 11 thought that they would be like those on flight 814 and those before it, they would stay on the plane until the hijackers got what they wanted. But what they wanted was death and destruction. Passengers and crew will now fight back - rather than obey the terrorists orders, for fear that they will be the next victim of a terrorist group.

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The Aircraft that changed the world.
Photo © Colin K. Work

In answer to the question of why? Why do hijackers hijack? As "normal" people we will never know why. Or what goes through these people's heads when they think of hijacking as a solution to their problems, because no amount of justification can justify the senseless murder of over 3000 people for a "cause" or the crippling injuries that the heroes of flight 705 sustained because of a grudge, or the emotional scars of that a child has to live with because they watched mummy's flight crash into the World Trade Centre because a low-life has an ax to grind with the west.

Written by
Clinton Shiell

19 User Comments:
Username: CcrlR [User Info]
Posted 2002-03-15 16:20:50 and read 32768 times.

It was a great article. It's the same thing with cars too. Some people fight back like the passengers on UA flt. 93. And after Sept.11th people all over the country fought back against terrorism and people who just act crazy. After all this that has happened it seems that people would subdue a person rather than to die in a plane crash with a crazy person at the controlls.

Username: Goallegheny [User Info]
Posted 2002-03-15 21:31:33 and read 32768 times.

Of course we know why people kill innocent people in cases like this - to advance theirs or someone else's cause, however twisted. Killing civilians in wartime started in the 20th century, if not before, and there is a rich history of sacrifice for a greater cause. Throw in a dose of undamentalist religion and a charismatic leader, an easy target, and you've got a recipe for potential disaster. As I think of it, the leader is probably the most important part of the answer of "why." Without Sheikh Omar and bin Laden, these attacks would not have happened.

And I just have to say it, but hijackers aren't the only ones killing civilians; the US and other governments do it as well, as 5,000 or more Iraqi kids die EACH MONTH as a result of economic sanctions, which have been a miserable failure.

Username: Hoons90 [User Info]
Posted 2002-03-16 05:45:12 and read 32768 times.

Nice Article, I would give it a 4 1/2 out of 5

Username: Bravo45 [User Info]
Posted 2002-03-17 12:36:58 and read 32768 times.

Nice article.Giving something to think about.
I would agree with Goallegheny as nothing of this sort would stop until a civilian killed inKashmir by Indians,innocent Palestinian killed by Israel would not be of the same concern as an American dying in the WTC.I don't want to say that the American worth less.I wanna say that ALL WORTH EQUAL.And each one is a tragedy and something MUST be done to stop them ALL.Whether Osama or Sharon.So much to say but just:
Just give it a thought.

Username: OD-BWH [User Info]
Posted 2002-03-17 13:14:09 and read 32768 times.

This is certainely a great article. Wish everybody can read it.

I really don't know what did Goallegheny mean by undamentalist religion , b'coz i've been searching for this word in a dictionary, but couldn't find a meaning.

It's shameful how do some people use religions and ethics to fight the religions themselves!! Away from what the terrorists did in NY, or what is Sharon doing with the Palestinians, let's search for the source of the flame, instead of adding more gas to the fire.


Username: Ziggy [User Info]
Posted 2002-03-17 19:31:36 and read 32768 times.

This article in my opinion only shows why we should arm the flight crew whether it be with Handguns or stun guns. I've also heard of using the enviromental system to introduce sleeping gas into the cabin. All great ideas that should be heavily considered. As for the political agenda of our and other nations, I will leave that to our community and politicians.

Ziggy :DD

Username: 747-600X [User Info]
Posted 2002-03-20 09:00:20 and read 32768 times.

I think that "religion" should certainly be among the initial reasons listed. I'm not certain as to whether or not "political reasons" really covers religion, and much terrorism falls into this category.

Other than that, I thought the article to be superb. It was brief but intense, and the Cooper issue is as creepy in review here as it was when I first learned of it. For anyone who isn't familiar with or extremely interest in terrorist actions and/or hijackings, this article provides an excellent overview.

Username: Bravo45 [User Info]
Posted 2002-03-21 12:36:06 and read 32768 times.

You have to think on it!My point is not that so many Muslims have been killed,the concern is that they have been killed ONLY because they were muslims.Only in Iraq and other than the war itself ONLY the sanctions results in death of more CHILDREN than the total casualties caused by the Hiroshima's atomic bomb.Reason!there were no medicines.
Recently muslims have been killed in India just for being muslims.Same is going on in Paletine for sooo long.More over the Media is showing the correct picture.
We are aviators here we know that after less than a month of the crash the CVR's data is available on net or somewhere else.Why not in the case of the Sept 11th?Why were no Jews out of 5-6000 that worked in the WTC present.Did any muslim gained anything out of this?Rather they were killed everywhere including the WTC.

Username: Qantas767 [User Info]
Posted 2002-03-22 10:56:16 and read 32768 times.

Im sorry for the confusion in my article. When I wrote the article I tried to avoid involving Race, or religion. If you read the Article you will notice that not once did i mention Muslims, Arabs or make any other racial steriotypes. The purpose of my article was to try to explain why Terrorists feel the need to "mess" with aircraft.

In answer to your questions - the CVR's from AA11 and UA175 were destroyed - I take it that you have some sort of Pilot qualification's, therefore it you would understand that no CVR or FDR could have survived the fire or the pressure that it would have that day. With regards to AA77 and UA93 you have to understand that these are not like other accidents - you can draw no paralells from september 11th and Delta 191 or United 232. These are not NTSB investigations - these are criminal investigations, they have different laws. And for good reasons.

The point that you raise about jewish workers at the WTC - Imagine getting the word to 6000 people, someone would have gone to the media about that, out of 6000 people there has to be one person that greed/conspiracy theorys appeal to. Alot of people would be very guilty in the days that follow - survivors guilt is multiplied 1000 times when you could have stopped the deaths of the others.

I understand you points about Iraq and India. Racial prejudice is as old as time itself - altough it is very sad it will continue as long as there are people that are too weak to see past a beliefe or a skin colour. All we can do is to be good enough people to see past these minor differences in people. I see nothing different between a white "Aussie," and a muslim - we all breath the same air, we are human.

Saddam has the power to stop the sanctions - but for some reason he values N/B/C weopons over children, it is sad but thats why the United State have him on there "Things to kill list."

Thats my 10 cents...

Thanks to everyone for your great comments, i really appreciate them.

C. Shiell

Username: Alaskaairlines [User Info]
Posted 2002-03-23 03:57:02 and read 32768 times.

Excellent article! I enjoyed reading it, unfortunatley any one can fly in an airliner, includeing high-jackers. :(

Great work!


Username: EmiratesLover [User Info]
Posted 2002-03-23 11:05:39 and read 32768 times.

I think that this is a superb article, which contributes greatly to the understanding of the ugly phenomenon that is terror against the aviation industry.

People should remember that aviation and aeroplanes are NOT legitimate targets - they have never been.The aviation industry is more than anything else about transporting people - men women and children from one place to another safely comfortably and enjoyably.I think that to target a planeload of innocent passengers for political purposes, even if those purposes are understandable is easily one of the most sickly revolting and cowardly things to do.I applaud efforts made around the world to make the world's airspace safer.

As an aviation enthusiast who loves aeroplanes and airlines and airports, I pray for the day when we all can board a plane safely and not have to worry about it being targetted by terrorists.I dream of an aviation industry no longer targetted by evil criminals.

And oh yes, I agree with the users above who said that violence and injustice in ALL it's forms needs to be deplored.

Username: Bravo45 [User Info]
Posted 2002-03-23 11:30:34 and read 32768 times.

I am really sorry about the way you felt.Ofcourse you wrote this great article with a point in your mind and the comments seem to take it somewhere else.I am sorry but I didn't mean it.I never meant to say that you added or wrote anything against muslim though you have every right to do so and you could have had you felt that way,The only difference that it would have made would have been me telling you what Islam really is.No one killing ANY INNOCENT PERSON can claim rightfully to be a muslim.I just feel it my duty to tell people about it because after Sept 11 there are many wrong concepts rising about Islam in the minds of others.
About Saddam,almost all muslims think bad of him(even as an American agent)and feel that if all American allegation are true then Saddam should be killed and not the innocent IraqiesYou are right about the Iraq that Saddam has the power to stop it but he seems to not to be a person with a heart,on the other side (personally)I don't understand why he is not being chased like Osama.USA has the capability but all they are doing is to drop bombs on Iraq resulting only in civil casulties.
Anyway you would have to agree about India and Israel's terrorism and racism no matter what.
And even if you don't I would like to relieve you from the feeling that I accidently gave you and ask your forgiveness in this regard.I should have mentioned that.I am sorry.
Keep writing good airticles,

Username: ATL Traveller [User Info]
Posted 2002-03-25 23:48:10 and read 32768 times.

Good article, but one question? How do we know what happened on the BAe146 in the first example? Wasn't everyone killed? Who saw David Burke enter the lavatory and come out shooting? Did we find the airsickness bag in the wreckage? I'm not trying to be a smartass, trivialize a very serious issue or take anything away from the point of this essay. I'm just asking how we know this.

Username: Qantas767 [User Info]
Posted 2002-03-27 06:10:29 and read 32768 times.

The airsickness bag was found in the wreckage, the CVR helped with the investigators reconsturction, the trigger was also found (damn they are good) and it had a layer of burks skin on it. Other than that I don't exactly know - I guess thats how the NTSB earn their money. :)

Hey Jawad - there is no need to apologise, you don't have to feel sorry for experssing your opinion. And I do agree with you about Isreal and India, Racism shoul NEVER be tolerated.

Have a good one mate :)

Username: Trintocan [User Info]
Posted 2002-03-28 01:08:56 and read 32768 times.

A very poignant and relevant article. I had read about that crash where the man killed his mother to claim insurance - money was more important than his mother! That was very sad but showed a sort of societal decay which has crept insiduously and in many ways has contributed to the many problems facing the world today - crime, drug abuse, extreme greed and the like. In such an environment it is easy for the poor and dislocated to seek solace in groups offering something different - even if it means doing the leader's whims and fancies.

May there be peace in the world.


Username: 747-451 [User Info]
Posted 2002-03-29 08:00:38 and read 32768 times.


A compelling and poingiant article! Quite concise and filled with facts.

The days of "regular" flying are over.

Only the lowest of cowards would target "civilian" aircraft; they ignore the fact that this only goes against their cause, no matter how "noble" it may seem in their eyes...

I also cannot belive some of the apalling comments written here.

Username: Aapilot2b [User Info]
Posted 2002-03-30 07:29:07 and read 32768 times.

This was a very well written article and I find these following comments interesting. The fact is there will never be peace anywhere till men and women in all places and in all walks of life can learn humility and love for others regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnic background, etc... There is so much I could say on this topic, but I will leave it at this. Terrorism is bred in radicalism; it has no grounds in true religeon and faith, and is only for personal gain and evil control. In fact it is one of the things that the world should unite against with a resolve of non tolerance.

Username: Jwenting [User Info]
Posted 2002-04-08 16:36:26 and read 32768 times.

OD-BWH, don't twist the facts to suit your own agenda and NEVER use an article about terrorism to attack the nation that has suffered the most from it during its entire existence.
Such behaveour is sick beyond description.

This is indeed food for thought. I do miss the Entebbe hijacking, and the Achille Lauro (a ship, but still).

Username: AApilot2b [User Info]
Posted 2002-04-09 06:58:11 and read 32768 times.

Well said Jwenting!!

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