Delta Air Lines Flight 841

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Delta Air Lines Flight 841
N817E at Orlando
N817E, the aircraft involved in the hijacking, at Orlando International Airport in 1966.
Hijacking summary
Date July 31 – August 2, 1972
Summary Hijacking
Site Houari Boumediene Airport, Algiers, Algeria
Passengers 94
Crew 7
Injuries (non-fatal) 0
Fatalities 0
Survivors 101
Aircraft type Douglas DC-8
Operator Delta Air Lines
Registration N817E
Flight origin Detroit, Michigan, United States
Destination Miami International Airport, Florida, United States

Delta Air Lines Flight 841 was an aircraft hijacking that took place beginning on Monday, July 31, 1972, on a flight originally from Detroit to Miami.


Members of the Black Liberation Army took over the airplane in flight using weapons smuggled on board, including a bible cut out to hold a handgun. The DC-8 held 7 crew and 94 passengers, none of whom were killed during the hijacking. Five hijackers who had boarded with three children took over the plane. The plane flew to Miami where the 86 hostage-held passengers (i.e. 94 minus 8) were released in exchange for $1 million in ransom. The plane was then flown on to Boston where it refueled before flying to Algeria. Algerian authorities seized the plane and ransom which they returned to the U.S. but the hijackers were released after a few days.[1]

Return of crew and plane[edit]

On Wednesday evening, August 2, 1972, at a hurried 10-minute news conference after the four-engine plane's return from the 11,500 mile trip to Atlanta, Georgia, the captain said he realized the aircraft was being hijacked when he left the cockpit to go to the lavatory and noticed a man holding a gun on a stewardess. One of the hijackers cocked his pistol at a stewardess (Mays, of Macon, Georgia) while the plane was in Miami. The stewardess had been with the airline less than two months. "They did it as a threat when they thought their instructions were not going to be carried out," the captain said. [2]

The crew had an overnight stay in Barcelona, Spain after leaving Algers. In addition to the ransom, a Delta spokesman said the trip cost $21,600 for fuel and salaries for the crew.

It was the first Delta aircraft ordered to fly to Algeria and the first hijacking experience for each of the seven members of the crew.

Delta identified the crew members as Capt. William Harold May, First Officer D.L. Henderson, and R.R. Kubal, and stewardesses Shirley Ann Morgan, Sherril Elsie Ross, Hanna Stout Mays, and Leanne Marie Arnfield.[3][4][5]

Apprehension of hijackers[edit]

Four of the five hijackers were captured in Paris on May 26, 1976, and tried by the French courts. The remaining hijacker, George Wright, who had dressed as a priest during the hijacking, was caught on September 26, 2011, in Lisbon.[6] Wright was an accomplice in a 1962 armed robbery and homicide, who had escaped prison in New Jersey before joining in the hijacking.[7]

The four hijackers, George Brown, Joyce Brown, Melvin McNair, Jean McNair, who had been living in France since 1973 were arrested by French police after the US pressured French officials since France does not extradite political exiles. Two of the male hijackers served 3 years in French prisons and 2 of the women's sentences were suspended because they had children. The 2 men were released in 1981 and all now live and work in France with their families. George Wright was the lone Panther who fled to Portugal from France and has lived in Portugal with his family since the early 1980s. Portugal recently denied US authorities his extradition because Wright is a Portuguese citizen and protected by its constitution.

In 2010, a documentary titled Nobody Knows My Name[8] was made about the hijacking. According to Mikhael Ganouna, producer of the film, Wright's hijacking accomplice, George Brown, lives in Paris but isn't worried about being extradited because he has already served his sentence.[9]

In 2012, a documentary titled Melvin & Jean: An American Story[10] was made by director Maia Wechsler.[11] Melvin McNair and his wife, Jean, work at an orphanage in the French town of Caen, where reportedly they have turned their lives around completely.[12] McNair is known for coaching American baseball, teaching youth the art and strategy of the sport. Jean McNair died on October 24, 2014.[13]


  1. ^ Tina Susman (September 27, 2011). "Fugitive in hijacking case caught after 40-year hunt". Los Angeles Times. 
  2. ^ "Black Militant Hijackers Tell Jet's Crew Of Plan To Join African Activists". The Robesonian. Aug 3, 1972. 
  3. ^ "Hijackers' Criticism Of America Described". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Aug 3, 1972. 
  4. ^ "Hijackers Fled "Decadent America"". Indiana Evening Gazette. Aug 3, 1972. 
  5. ^ "Hijackers Order Jet to Algeria". The Palm Beach Post. Aug 1, 1972. 
  6. ^ "On the run for 41 years, hijacker traced to Portugal". CNN. 2011-09-26. Retrieved 2011-09-26. 
  7. ^ Portugal nabs N.J. killer/hijacker on the run since 1970, Michael Winter, USA Today, September 27, 2011
  8. ^ IMDB page
  9. ^ "US officials knew fugitive in Africa". Associated Press. October 1, 2011. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ IMDB bio
  12. ^ "Retired Triad pilot recalls 1972 hijacking of airliner". Associated Press. September 29, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Décès de l'ex Black Panther. Jean Mc Nair s'est éteinte à Caen" (in French). Ouest-France. 

External links[edit]

See also[edit]