I just watched a fascinating programme on Discovery Channel about air crimes, ie airliner accidents caused by criminal intent. They profiled several crashes including PA103, but the one that really stood out was the incident aboard Fedex 705 on April 7 1994. It was discussed briefly on this forum a couple of years ago, but I wonder if like me, there are others here who aren’t familiar with this incident.
The story began profiling a Fedex flight engineer Aubern Calloway, who was an ex fighter pilot (possibly ex Vietnam – I can’t recall exactly). His attitude and demeanour rubbed other staff up the wrong way, resulting in few other flight deck crew wanting to fly with him. Over time, Calloway was given warnings about his behaviour, which he took as racial discrimination (he was an African American). There became a point where calloway couldn’t take it any longer, so made the decision to commit suicide.
Fedex has a policy of allowing staff to travel for free in the jumpseat of any aircraft and Calloway booked a jumpseat on a DC10 bound for LA from Memphis. His intent was to take over control of the aircraft, and crash the aircraft into the Fedex main operations centre in Memphis. He felt that Fedex were persecuting him and he wanted to end his own life - at the same time bringing down the entire company.
About 30 minutes after takeoff, Calloway took out a hammer and hit Captain David Sanders several times on the head. Co-pilot Jim Tucker turned to Sanders to ask him about the noise when Calloway began hitting him with a hammer also. The flight engineer Andy Petersen was struggling to get out of his seat but was also attacked by Calloway. Calloway thought the severe attack would have killed the flight deck crew, but despite their injuries, all three began fighting with Calloway. Calloway began to panic and ran out of the flight deck, pursued by Tucker and Petersen. Sanders jumped back in his seat, began to stabilise the aircraft, and sent out a mayday call.
In the back, Calloway grabbed a violin case that he had hidden and pulled a diving spear gun from inside, threatening to shoot Petersen and Tucker. Sanders rolled the DC10 through 120 degrees and then began am almost vertical dive (diving faster than the ‘do not exceed speed), after which Petersen and Tucker ended up on top of Calloway on the floor. Sanders turned the aircraft back towards Memphis while the fight continued in the back, despite one side of his body becoming paralysed.
The aircraft was coming in fast (above 300MPH) to the emergency runway at Memphis when Sanders realised he was travelling too high and too fast. He advised ATC, turned the aircraft perpendicular to the ground and landed on another runway. Armed police met the airliner on the runway and paramedics took care of the flight deck crew.
One of the fire officers said that the bloodied mess inside the cockpit was probably the worst of any accident scene he had seen. A medical examination later revealed that one of the hammer blows to Sanders’ head was so hard, that it broke through his skull and into his brain.
I find it amazing that despite these extremely serious injuries, the crew managed to regain control of the aircraft and keep fighting their attacker until they landed in Memphis. I also was amazed to hear that someone else had the idea 7 years before the attacks on the World Trade Centre. There were extracts from the CVR on the documentary and presumably the exist somewhere on the Internet, but I haven’t been able to find them.
Sanders, Petersen and Tucker have not flown since.