Aircraft hijacking (also known as skyjacking and aircraft piracy) is the unlawful seizure of an aircraft by force, by either an individual or a group. In most cases the pilot is forced to fly according to the orders of the hijackers. However, in the September 11, 2001 attacks, the hijackers flew the aircraft themselves. In one case, the official pilot hijacked the plane, when he diverted his internal Air China flight to Taiwan.
Unlike the hijacking of land vehicles or ships, skyjacking is usually not perpetrated in order to rob the cargo. Most aircraft hijackings are committed to use the passengers as hostages in an effort to obtain transportation to a given location. A 2000 Afghan hijacking of an internal flight, diverted to Britain, successfully gained political asylum for the hijackers. Other hijackers may hold the passengers to ransom. The 1971 hijacking of an American plane by D. B. Cooper to gain a ransom $200,000 is one of the only unsolved hijackings in the world, another being Malaysia Airlines Flight 653. Another common motive is publicity for some cause or grievance. Since the use of hijacked planes as suicide missiles in the September 11 attacks, hijacking is treated as a different kind of security threat — though similar usages had apparently been attempted by Samuel Byck in 1974 and on Air France Flight 8969 in 1994.
Hijackings for hostages have usually followed a pattern of negotiations between the hijackers and the authorities, followed by some form of settlement - but does not always meet with the hijackers' original demands. If the hijackers' show no sign of surrendering, armed forces would storm the aircraft to rescue the hostages.
The first recorded aircraft hijack was on February 21, 1931, in Arequipa, Peru. Byron Rickards flying a Ford Tri-Motor was approached on the ground by armed revolutionaries. He refused to fly them anywhere and after a ten day stand-off Rickards was informed that the...