Is ‘1970 in Aviation’ the Most Fascinating Page on Wikipedia?

A year of hijackings, crashes, military operations, and regulation that ends on the sour note of also being the most financially ruinous year in commercial aviation to date.

byEric Goeres|
Is ‘1970 in Aviation’ the Most Fascinating Page on Wikipedia?

I put it to you, Greg, what is the most fascinating page in Wikipedia? If you've ever gone deep down a Wiki rabbit hole, you probably have your own list of weird-crazy-interesting entries under benign headers (and, please, feel free to share in the comments), but here's my vote: "1970 in Aviation," a thrilling day-by-day account of all the aviation happs in 1970. With near daily entries, it's got it all: hijackings, crashes, military deployments in Vietnam, cool airlines you've never heard of (Interflug, for example, the official airline of East Berlin), great quotes, and all the drama and suspense of a season of M*A*S*H.

Here, some high points. Everything in quotes is ripped directly from the page on Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike License, and you can find the full entry right here.

January 4, 1970

"Fascinated with the kind of communism practiced in Albania under its leader Enver Hoxha, 18-year-old Mariano Ventura Rodriguez pulls out a toy pistol aboard an Iberia Convair CV-240 ten minutes before it lands at Zaragoza, Spain, after a domestic flight from Madrid. He demands to be flown to Albania. When the airliner lands at Zaragoza, Spanish soldiers armed with submachine guns surround it. During negotiations between Rodriguez and the police, the local police chief tells him that he will be "shot at dawn" if anything happens to any of the plane′s passengers or crew, prompting Rodriguez to surrender peacefully soon afterward."

January 6, 1970

"Anton Funjek, a 41-year-old Yugoslav man on probation for threatening President Richard Nixon, pulls out a knife and grabs a stewardess aboard Delta Air Lines Flight 274, a Douglas DC-9 with 65 people aboard flying from Orlando to Jacksonville, Florida, and demands to be flown to Switzerland. The captain makes a deliberately hard landing at Jacksonville International Airport to throw Funjek off balance, and three passengers overpower him when he stumbles."

January 8, 1970

"To protest an Israeli military operation that resulted in the capture of several Lebanese nationals, Christian Bellon, armed with two handguns and a rifle, hijacks Trans World Airlines Flight 802, a Boeing 707 with 20 people on board flying from Paris to Rome, and demands to be flown to Damascus, Syria, spraying the airliner′s instrument panel with gunfire to emphasize how serious he is. After the airliner lands in Rome to refuel, Bellon changes his mind and demands that the plane fly him to Beirut, Lebanon, instead. When the airliner lands at Beirut International Airport, Bellon surrenders to Lebanese police, who slap him across the face several times."

January 22, 1970

"Pan American World Airways begins the world's first wide-body airliner service, introducing the first Boeing 747 into service on the New York-London route."

February 16, 1970

"Flying with his wife, 10-year-old daughter, and eight-year-old son aboard Eastern Airlines Flight 1 – a Boeing 727 flying from Newark, New Jersey to Miami, Florida, with 104 people on board – Daniel Lopez jumps up with a flaming "Molotov cocktail" and a pistol equipped with a crude bayonet when the airliner is 80 miles south of Wilmington, North Carolina, shouts "Viva Cuba!" and demands to be flown to Havana, Cuba. The flight crew agrees to fly him there as long as he extinguishes his Molotov cocktail. Lopez and his family disembark at Havana, and the airliner returns to the United States after about five hours on the ground in Havana. An investigation reveals that Eastern Airlines did not screen any of the passengers boarding the flight."

February 17-18, 1970

"United States Air Force Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses attack Laos."

February 25, 1970

"Trans World Airlines inaugurates scheduled nonstop Boeing 747 service between Los Angeles, California, and New York City, thus becoming the first airline to offer domestic Boeing 747 service in the United States."

March 10, 1970

"A young husband and wife, Eckhard and Christel Wehage, hijack an Interflug Antonov An-24 with 15 other passengers on board during a domestic flight in East Germany from East Berlin to Leipzig, demanding to be flown to Hanover, West Germany. The pilot claims not to have enough fuel to reach Hanover, so the Wehages agree to land at Tempelhof Airport in West Berlin. When the plane lands at Schönefeld Airport in East Berlin instead, the Wehages commit suicide."

March 17, 1970

"Unable to pay his fare aboard Eastern Air Lines Flight 1340 – a Douglas DC-9-31 (registration N8925E) with 73 people on board operating a shuttle service from Newark, New Jersey, to Boston, Massachusetts – John DiVivo pulls out .38-caliber revolver and orders the pilot to "just fly east until we run out of gas." After about 15 minutes, the captain convinces DiVivo that the airliner will crash into the Atlantic Ocean soon if it does not refuel. Although DiVivo approves a refueling stop, he shoots both pilots when they start to turn the plane. A struggle ensues in the cockpit, during which the mortally wounded copilot knocks the revolver from DiVivo′s hand and the captain, despite serious wounds in both arms, picks it up and shoots DiVivo in the chest. The captain then lands the DC-9 at Logan International Airport in Boston, where DiVivo is arrested. The copilot is the first pilot killed in a U.S. hijacking. DiVivo hangs himself in his jail cell on October 31."

March 28, 1970

"A United States Navy F-4J Phantom II fighter of Fighter Squadron 142 (VF-142) shoots down a North Vietnamese MiG-21 fighter. It is the only American air-to-air kill in the Vietnam War between September 1968 and January 1971."

April 22, 1970

"Twenty-six-year-old Ira David "Orrie" Meeks and his 17-year-old girlfriend hire pilot Boyce Stradley to take them on a sightseeing flight in a Cessna 172 over Gastonia, North Carolina, during which Meeks pulls a gun on Stradley and orders him to fly them to Cuba so that Meeks can "get away from racism in the United States." During the 11-hour trip to Havana, Cuba, the plane makes refueling stops at Rock Hill, South Carolina, Jacksonville, Florida (where Meeks requests but is denied a bottle of Scotch whisky, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Upon arrival in Cuba, Meeks and his girlfriend are arrested, and Stradley flies back to a hero′s welcome in Gastonia."

May 14, 1970

"A man without a ticket boards an Ansett Australia Douglas DC-9-31 at Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney, Australia, as it prepares for a domestic flight to Brisbane, brandishes a revolver, and demands that the airliner fly him out of Sydney. After talking to a clergyman, he surrenders, and his revolver turns out to be a toy gun."

May 20, 1970

"The Tupolev Tu-144 becomes the first commercial transport to reach Mach 2."

May 26, 1970

"Operation Menu, the 14-month-long covert American bombing campaign by B-52 Stratofortresses against North Vietnamese Army sanctuaries in Cambodia, comes to an end. The B-52s have flown 3,800 sorties and dropped 108,823 tons (98,723,578 kg) of munitions during the campaign."

June 4, 1970

"Angry over the refusal of the United States Supreme Court to hear his case in a dispute with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service which had begun in 1963, Arthur Gates Barkley walks into the cockpit of Trans World Airlines (TWA) Flight 486 – a Boeing 727 flying from Phoenix, Arizona, to Washington National Airport in Arlingtnn, Virginia – armed with a .22-caliber pistol, a straight razor, and a can of gasoline (petrol), and threatens to set the plane and its passengers on fire if $100 million is not taken from the Supreme Court′s budget and given to him, the first time that an American airline hijacker has demanded a ransom. He forces the airliner to land at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia, where TWA gives him $100,750 in the hope that he will accept the smaller amount. Enraged at the small amount, Barkley orders the plane to take off and sends a message of complaint addressed directly to President Richard Nixon. During the next two hours, while the plane circles the airport, Barkley makes numerous suicidal threats, and TWA turns the matter over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which talks Barkley into returning to the airport to collect the rest of his ransom. When the plane lands, Barkley finds the runway lined with 100 sacks supposedly containing $1 million each but actually containing scraps of paper, and an FBI sniper shoots out the plane′s landing gear. A panicked passenger opens an emergency exit, and the rest of the passengers follow him out of the plane while FBI agents storm it, engage in a gun battle with Barkley in which Barkley and the copilot are wounded, and arrest Barkley."

June 6, 1970

"The commander of the U.S. Air Force's Military Airlift Command, General Jack J. Catton, accepts the first operational Lockheed C-5 Galaxy into service. The C-5 is the largest airplane in the world at the time."

July 1, 1970

"Trans World Airlines becomes the first airline to offer a no-smoking section aboard every aircraft in its fleet."

July 5, 1970

"While landing, Air Canada Flight 621, a Douglas DC-8-63, hits the runway at Toronto International Airport in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with such force that its number four engine and pylon break off the right wing. The pilot manages to lift off again for a go around, but a series of explosions in the right wing break off the number three engine and pylon and then destroy most of the wing before the pilot can make a second landing attempt. The plane crashes in Brampton, Ontario, killing all 109 people on board."

July 17, 1970

"Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport commences passenger screening to help prevent hijackings, the first airport to do so."

July 30, 1970

"The Egyptian Air Force loses five MiG fighters and their pilots in a single day of combat with the Israeli Air Force."

August 2, 1970

"The first hijacking of a Boeing 747 takes place when 27-year old Puerto Rican nationalist Rodolfo Rivera Rios passes through a metal detector that Pan American World Airways personnel are not monitoring and boards Pan American Flight 299, a Boeing 747-121 (registration N736PA) flying from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City to San Juan, Puerto Rico, with 379 people on board. During the flight, he pulls out a .32-caliber pistol, a switchblade, and a bottle he claims contains nitroglycerine, demanding to be flown to Havana, Cuba. Awakened at dawn by the airliner circling Havana at an altitude of 2,000 feet (610 meters) while awaiting air traffic control instructions, President of Cuba Fidel Castro rushes to the airport to inspect the 747 – which at the time was still a novelty – but he declines an invitation to come aboard the plane, saying he does not want to ""disturb the passengers." Imprisoned in Cuba until 1977, Rios returns to the United States in 1978 and is imprisoned for life."

August 24, 1970

"Two U.S. Air Force Sikorsky HH-53C Sea Stallion helicopters complete a nine-day, seven-stop flight of 9,000 miles (14,493 km) from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to Da Nang, South Vietnam. The trip has included the first transpacific flight by helicopters, a 1,700-mile (2,738-km) non-stop segment on August 22 from Shemya Island in the Aleutian Islands to Misawa Air Base, Japan, with in-flight refuelling by HC-130 Hercules tanker aircraft."

September 6, 1970

"Members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hijack three airliners bound for New York City. The hijackings of Trans World Airlines Flight 741 – a Boeing 707 flying from Frankfurt-am-Main, West Germany, with 155 people on board including Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner – and Swissair Flight 100 – a Douglas DC-8 with 155 passengers on board flying from Zürich-Kloten Airport in Switzerland – proceed without injury to anyone, and the airliners are flown to Dawson′s Field, an abandoned former Royal Air Force airstrip in a remote desert area of Jordan near Zarka. The hijacking of El Al Flight 219, a Boeing 707 with 158 people on board, fails when hijacker Patrick Argüello is shot and killed after injuring one crew member and his partner Leila Khaled is subdued and turned over to British authorities in London; two other PFLP members prevented from boarding El Al Flight 219 instead hijack Pan American World Airways Flight 93, a Boeing 747 flying from Brussels, Belgium, and Amsterdam, the Netherlands, with 153 people on board, which they force to fly to Beirut, Lebanon, and then on to Cairo, Egypt."

September 8, 1970

"While a Trans International Airlines Douglas DC-8 (registration N8963T) taxis at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City for a ferry flight to Washington Dulles International Airport in Fairfax County, Virginia, with eight flight attendants and three cockpit crew members on board, a foreign object becomes wedged between the right elevator and horizontal stabilizer, blown there by backwash from the aircraft preceding it on the taxiway. The problem is not detected, and the aircraft crashes upon takeoff, killing all 11 people on board; it is Trans International's only fatal accident. The accident prompts the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to institute new minimum distances between aircraft in line-up for take-off."

September 11, 1970

"U.S. President Richard Nixon orders the immediate deployment of armed federal agents aboard U.S. commercial aircraft to combat hijackings."

October 4, 1970

"American stock car racing driver Curtis Turner is one of two people killed when the Aero Commander 500 he is piloting crashes near Mahaffey, Pennsylvania."

October 28, 1970

"The U.S. Air Force completes Operation Fig Hill, an airlift begun on September 27 to bring medical personnel, equipment, and supplies to Jordan in the aftermath of combat between the country's armed forces and the Palestine Liberation Organization. During the airlift, transport aircraft have delivered 200 medical personnel, two field hospitals, and 186 short tons (169 metric tons) of supplies, equipment, vehicles, tents, and food."

November 21, 1970

"American aircraft begin the first major bombing campaign over North Vietnam since 1968, as 300 aircraft attack the Mu Gia and Ban Gari passes."

December 16, 1970

"The Hague Hijacking Convention, formally the "Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft," is adopted by the International Conference on Air Law at The Hague in the Netherlands. It requires signatory countries to prohibit and punish the hijacking of civilian aircraft in situations in which an aircraft takes off or lands in a place different from its country of registration. It also establishes the principle of aut dedere aut judicare, which holds that a party to the convention must prosecute an aircraft hijacker if no other state requests his or her extradition for prosecution of the same crime. It will go into effect on October 14, 1971."

December 19. 1970

"As Continental Airlines Flight 144 – a Douglas DC-9 with 30 people on board making a flight from Denver, Colorado, to Wichita, Kansas – is flying somewhere between Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Wichita, passenger Calos Denis passes a note to a stewardess indicating that he has a gun and wants to be flown to Cuba. When the captain asks if the passengers can disembark during a refueling stop at Tulsa, Denis agrees. After the other 26 passengers disembark at Tulsa International Airport, the crew sneaks off the plane while Denis uses the lavatory. Tulsa police then board the airliner, find Denis hiding in the lavatory, and arrest him. He turns out to be unarmed."

December 31, 1970

"With pre-tax losses of $130 million, the year ends as the worst ever for U.S. airlines."