List of Cuba–United States aircraft hijackings
Aircraft hijacking incidents between the United States and Cuba were at their height between 1968 and 1972. These incidents have variously been attributed to terrorism, extortion, flight for political asylum, mental illness and transportation between the two countries as a result of the ongoing antagonistic Cuba-United States relations. Subsequent measures by both governments contributed to a gradual reduction of reported incidents towards the mid-1970s. Governmental measures included an amendment to Cuban law which made hijacking a crime in 1970, the introduction of metal detectors in U.S. airports in 1973, and a joint agreement between the U.S. and Cuba signed in Sweden to return or prosecute hijackers.
Below is a non-comprehensive list of hijacking incidents of aircraft between Cuba and the United States.
- April 12, 1958 The crew of a Cuban Airlines DC-3 with 12 passengers on board, diverted their flight from Havana to Santa Clara in Central Cuba, and flew, instead, to Miami, Florida. One of the passengers, United Press reporter Harold Lidin, said that the decision to defect was apparently made after take off.
- November 1, 1958 A Cubana Vickers Viscount en route from Miami to Varadero to Havana was hijacked by Cuban militants. The hijackers were trying to land at Sierra Cristal in Eastern Cuba to deliver weapons to Raúl Castro's rebels. As night approached, the plane ran out of fuel and tried an emergency landing at the Preston sugar mill. It did not make it and instead landed in the ocean and broke apart, killing most passengers and crew. There were six survivors.
- April 15, 1959 A plane is hijacked from Cuba to Miami. The hijackers were four members of Batista's Army (three were from the SIM—the Military Intelligence—and one was an aviation mechanic). The airplane is returned by the U.S.
- May 1, 1961 Antulio Ramirez Ortiz hijacks a National Airlines flight from Miami International Airport to Cuba.
- March 27, 1966 Angel María Betancourt Cueto, armed with a pistol, tries to hijack a plane from Santiago de Cuba to Havana, with 97 persons, in an attempt to reach the U.S. The pilot, Fernando Álvarez Pérez, opposed the hijacking and landed in Havana. The hijacker then killed Álvarez and armed guard Edor Reyes, seriously wounding the copilot Evans Rosales. The event had a large effect on Cubans. The hijacker later was caught and executed.
- November 20, 1967 Louis Gabor Babler, born in Hungary, successfully hijacks a Crescent Airline Piper Apache from Hollywood, Florida to Cuba; the plane was scheduled to go to the Bahamas.
- February 17, 1968 Thomas J. Boynton hijacks a private charter Piper Apache from Marathon, Florida to Cuba. He returned to the United States via Canada on November 1, 1969 and was sentenced to 20 years for kidnapping.
- February 21 Lawrence Rhodes hijacked a Delta Air Lines DC-8 from Tampa, Florida to Cuba with 108 other crew and passengers aboard, including golfer Barbara Romack. Cuban authorities provided the passengers with lemonade, coffee, cigarettes, and pictures of Che Guevara and the plane was released after three hours. Rhodes surrendered in Spain on February 10, 1970. A January 4, 1971 hijacking charge against him is dismissed; he was committed to a mental institution; on July 8, 1971 he returns to prison; he is sentenced to 25 years for robbery on July 17, 1972.
- March 12 Three Cubans hijack a DC-8 from Tampa, Florida to Cuba; all are fugitives.
- July 1 Velasquez Fonseca, born in Cuba, hijacks a Boeing 727 from Chicago to Cuba.
- July 12 Leonard Bendicks hijacks a Cessna 210 from Key West, Florida, to Cuba. He is deported to the U.S. in September 1968. On March 4, 1971, he is sentenced to 10 years for kidnapping.
- July 17 Hernandez Leyva, a Cuban, hijacks a DC-8 from Los Angeles to Cuba.
- August 4 Jessie Willis hijacks a Cessna 182 from Naples, Florida to Cuba; he returns voluntarily via Mexico on January 10, 1969; he is sentenced to 10 years for kidnapping; he is paroled on July 28, 1971.
- August 22 Bill McBride hijacks a Cessna 336 from Nassau to Cuba.
- October 23 Alben Truitt, the grandson of former U.S. Vice President Alben Barkley, hijacks a Cessna 177 from Key West to Cuba; he returns via Canada in February 1969; he is sentenced to 20 years for aircraft piracy and 20 years for kidnapping (to run consecutively).
- November 4 Raymond Johnson hijacks a Boeing 727 from New Orleans to Cuba.
- November 23 Five Cubans hijack a Boeing 727 from Chicago to Cuba.
- November 24 Three Cubans hijack a Boeing 707 from New York to Cuba.
- November 30 Montesino Sanchez, a Cuban, hijacks a Boeing 720 from Miami to Cuba.
- December 5 Eduardo Castera hijacks a Boeing 727 from Tampa to Cuba.
- December 11 Two men hijack a DC-8 from St. Louis to Cuba.
- January 2, 1969 Two Americans, a man and woman, hijack a DC-8 from New York to Cuba. The man was killed while the woman is still a fugitive.
- January 9 Ronald Bohle, a 21-year-old Purdue University student, hijacks a Boeing 727 from Miami to Cuba; he returns via Canada on November 1, 1969, and is sentenced to 20 years for air piracy on July 6, 1972.
- January 11 A man hijacks a 727 from Jacksonville, Florida to Cuba; he returns via Canada on May 5, 1969; he is acquitted of air piracy and kidnapping on grounds of temporary insanity.
- January 13 A man unsuccessfully attempts to hijack a Convair 880 from Detroit to Cuba; he is sentenced on July 31, 1969, to 15 years for interference with a flight crew; he had a history of mental illness.
- January 17 A man from the Dominican Republic hijacks a DC-8 from New York to Cuba.
- January 24, 1969 A man hijacks a Boeing 727 from Key West to Cuba; he was a 19-year-old Navy deserter who "didn't want to go to Vietnam".
- January 28 Two men successfully hijack a DC-8 from Los Angeles to Cuba; they are prison escapees.
- January 31 Allan Sheffield hijacks a DC-8 from San Francisco to Cuba; he says he is "tired of TV dinners and tired of seeing people starve in the world".
- February 3 A 21-year old student and his girlfriend attempt to hijack a plane from New York City to Cuba; when the pilot refuels in Miami, the hijackers allow the passengers to deplane; the police capture the hijackers.
- February 3 Two Cubans hijack a 727 from Newark, New Jersey, to Cuba.
- February 10 A man born in Cuba hijacks a DC-8 from Atlanta to Cuba.
- February 25 A man hijacks a DC-8 from Atlanta to Cuba; he surrenders to U.S. authorities in Prague, CSR, in September 1969; he is sentenced to life imprisonment on July 7, 1970.
- March 6 Black Panther Tony Bryant (d. 1999 at 60) hijacks a National Airlines plane en route from NY to Miami and directed it to Cuba. He was arrested in Cuba and spent 10 years in a Cuban prison after being suspected of being a CIA agent. The US Government pardoned Bryant after his return in 1980. His 1984 book "Hijack" described his experience in Cuban prisons.
- March 17 A man hijacks an airliner from Atlanta to Cuba; he returns via Canada on November 1, 1969; he is committed to a mental institution on February 1, 1972; he is released on second 18-month furlough on December 5, 1973.
- March 19 A man tries to hijack a CV-880 from Dallas to Cuba; he ends up in New Orleans; charges are dismissed due to insanity.
- March 26 A man hijacked a Delta Air Lines Flight 821 (DC-8) from Dallas, Tex. bringing all 114 passengers to Havana, Cuba, many of which were active duty military.
- May 5 Jean-Pierre Charette and Alain Alard (members of the Front de Libération du Québec) successfully hijack a Boeing 727 from New York to Cuba.
- May 23 Three men born in Cuba successfully hijack a 727 from Miami to Cuba.
- June 17 A man hijacks a 707 from Oakland to Cuba.
- June 22 A man born in Cuba hijacks a DC-8 from Newark, N.J., to Cuba.
- June 25 A man successfully hijacks a DC-8 from Los Angeles to Cuba.
- June 28 A man successfully hijacks a 727 from Baltimore to Cuba. He returns via Canada in November 1969; he is sentenced to 15 years for interference with a flight crew on October 6, 1970.
- July 26 A man hijacks a DC-8 from El Paso, Texas, to Cuba. He returns via Canada on November 1, 1969; he is sentenced to 50 years for aircraft piracy on September 14, 1970.
- July 31 A man successfully hijacks a 727 from Pittsburgh to Cuba.
- August 5 A Man unsuccessfully tries to hijack a DC-9 from Philadelphia to Cuba; charges are dismissed on January 12, 1970; he is committed to a mental institution; he is discharged on September 15, 1971.
- August 14 Two Cubans hijack a 727 from Boston to Cuba.
- August 29 A Cuban hijacks a 727 from Miami to Cuba.
- September 7 A man hijacks a DC-8 from New York to Cuba.
- September 10 A Puerto Rican unsuccessfully tries to hijack a DC-8 (scheduled for San Juan) to Cuba; he is committed to mental institution on January 30, 1970; he is released in December 1971.
- September 24 A Cuban hijacks a DC-8 from Charleston, South Carolina to Cuba.
- October 9 A man hijacks a DC-8 from Los Angeles to Cuba.
- October 21 A man hijacks a Boeing 720 from Mexico City to Cuba. He committed suicide in Cuba on September 28, 1970.
- November 4 Two armed men seize a Nicaraguan airliner en route from Miami to Mexico; they divert it to Cuba.
- December 26 M. Martinez (alias) hijacks a 727 from New York to Cuba.
- February 16, 1970 A man who was born in Cuba, with wife and two children, successfully hijacks a 727 from Newark to Cuba.
- March 11 A man hijacks a 727 from Cleveland to Cuba; he is imprisoned in Cuba for attempting to escape; he is fatally shot escaping from prison on March 26, 1973.
- April 22 In 1966 Ira David Meeks was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. April 1970 he hijacked a plane on a sightseeing tour with his wife pulling a gun at the pilot demanding to be flown to Cuba. Meeks told Cuban authorities "he felt persecuted as a black man in America and had heard that things would be better in Cuba." Cuba suspected him of being a spy and deported him 1976. On arrival he was arrested for the hijacking by the FBI. He was freed in 1981 after spending years in jail and a mental hospital.
- May 25 A man successfully hijacks a 727 from Chicago to Cuba.
- July 1 George Lopez hijacks a DC-8 from Las Vegas to Cuba.
- August 2 A man hijacks a Pan American World Airways 747 bound for San Juan from New York to Cuba. This was the first hijacking of the newly introduced Boeing 747 to Cuba and Premiere Fidel Castro came out to Havana's José Martí Airport to see the new airliner for himself. Castro reportedly met in person with the Pan Am pilot Captain Augustus Watkins and expressed concerns over the ability of the big plane to take off safely from the small airport but was reassured by the Pan Am captain.
- August 19 Three men (two born in Cuba, one born in Spain) hijack a DC-3 from Newark to Cuba (the plane's destination was San Juan).
- August 20 A man successfully hijacks a DC-9 from Atlanta to Cuba.
- September 19 A man successfully hijacks an Allegheny Airlines 727 from Pittsburgh to Cuba with a pistol and home made bomb.  
- October 30 L. Rosas hijacks a DC-8 from Miami to Cuba.
- November 1 A man born in Mexico successfully hijacks a 727 from San Diego to Cuba; he has two children with him.
- November 13 A man hijacks an airliner from Raleigh to Cuba.
- December 19 A man attempts to hijack a DC-9 from Albuquerque to Cuba. He is taken into custody at Tulsa; he is sentenced to 5 years subject to a medical mental examination for conveying false information about an attempt to commit air piracy.
- January 22, 1971 A man successfully hijacks a 727 from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Cuba; he would have gone to Algeria, if possible.
- February 4 A man successfully hijacks a DC-9 from Chicago to Cuba.
- February 25 A man successfully hijacks a 727 from San Francisco to Cuba or Canada; he ends up in Canada; he is deported on March 8, 1971; he is sentenced to 10 years for interference with a flight crew.
- March 31 A man born in Venezuela successfully hijacks a DC-8 from New York to Cuba; he returns to the United States via Bermuda on October 8, 1974.
- April 5 A former Cuban hijacks a Cessna 402 from Key West to Cuba.
- July 11 A Cubana de Aviación aircraft is hijacked at Cienfuegos, Cuba (Cienfuegos Airport) resulting in one fatality. The two hijackers were taken down and the hijacking lasted less than one day.
- July 24 A man born in Cuba successfully hijacks a DC-8 from Miami to Cuba, a stewardess and a passenger are wounded.
- September 3 A man born in Cuba, attempts to hijack a plane from Chicago to Cuba; he is sentenced to 20 years for interference with a flight crew on March 6, 1972.
- October 9 A man forces his way aboard a 727 in Detroit and hijacks it to Cuba.
- October 18 A man born in Canada, unsuccessfully attempts to hijack a Boeing 737 from Anchorage to Cuba; the attempt ends in Vancouver; he is deported to the United States on October 19, 1971, and is sentenced to 20 years for air piracy on May 12, 1972.
- October 25 A man born in Puerto Rico successfully hijacks a Boeing 747 from New York to Cuba; the plane was bound for San Juan.
- October 29 A man, his two sons, and a third youth hijack an Eastern Airlines jet from Houston to Havana. They kill a ticket agent during seizure of plane.
- November 24 Three members of the group "Republic of New Afrika" who had murdered a New Mexico State Policeman on November 8 hijacked TWA Flight 106, a Boeing 727, from Albuquerque to Havana. Passengers were released in Tampa.
- January 7, 1972 A man and a woman hijack a 727 from San Francisco to Cuba.
- March 7 Two men force their way aboard a Chalk's Flying Service Grumman 73 (G/A) in Miami, Florida, wounding the pilot, a mechanic, and a bystander. They hijack the plane to Cuba.
- March 19 A man and a woman successfully hijack a Cessna 206 from Key West to Cuba.
- May 4–6 Michael Hansen hijacks a Boeing 737 flight from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles; he wants to go to Hanoi or Cuba; he goes to Cuba.
- October 29 Four men force their way aboard an aircraft. They kill a ticket agent, wound a ramp serviceman, and hijack a plane to Cuba.
- November 10 Melvin C. Cale, Louis Cale, and Henry D. Jackson, Jr. successfully hijack Southern Airways Flight 49 from Birmingham to multiple locations in the United States, including Cleveland, Ohio, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Chattanooga, Tennessee; Toronto, Canada, and finally to Cuba with $2 million in ransom (actual cash, Presidential "grant" totaled $10 million) and 10 parachutes. Co-pilot Harold is shot and wounded by the hijackers; they threaten to crash the plane into one of the Oak Ridge nuclear installations; at McCoy Air Force Base, in Orlando, the FBI shoots out two tires; the hijackers force pilot William Haas to take off; the DC-9 finally lands on a (partially) foam-covered runway in Havana; Jackson and Louis Cale are sentenced in Cuba to 20 years, Melvin Cale to 15 years, then returned to the United States to face further charges. This incident leads to a brief treaty between the U.S. and Cuba to extradite hijackers, not renewed. Haas's story commemorated in the Reader's Digest book People in Peril 
- December 14, 1974 Robin Harrison charters a plane by phone. On arrival at the airport office in Tampa, he points gun at the pilot of a Piper Seneca and demands a flight to Cuba.
- June 12, 1979 Delta Air Lines Flight 1061, an L-1011 piloted by Captain Vince Doda, is hijacked by Eduardo Guerra Jimenez, a former Cuban air force pilot who had hijacked a MIG jet to the United States 10 years earlier.
- September 13, 1980 A Delta Air Lines from New Orleans, bound for Atlanta, is hijacked. The pilot flew to Havana, the hijackers were removed from the plane and the flight, with 81 passengers, continued to Atlanta.
- March 27, 1984 William Potts hijacked a Piedmont Airlines flight originally destined to leave from Newark, N.J. and to land in Miami, FL. Potts identified himself as Lt. Spartacus of the Black Liberation Army and forced the pilot to fly to Havana, Cuba, claiming to have explosives on the airplane. Cuban officials arrested Potts, who then served 13 years in a Cuban prison for air piracy.
- December 31, 1984 An American Airlines DC-10 from Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands (STX) bound for New York City (JFK) is hijacked to Havana. The whereabouts of the hijacker (Ismail La Beet) is unknown.
- March 11, 1987 A Cubana de Aviación Antonov 24RV (CU-T1262) on a scheduled domestic passenger flight from Nueva Gerona (Rafael Cabrera Airport), Cuba is hijacked. The hijacker was taken down and there was one fatality.
- February 4, 1992 Luis Rodríguez hijacks a plane from Cuba with other eight people. The plane ran out of fuel and fell to the sea near the Florida keys. There were no survivors.
- November 15, 1993 Alvarez Manuel & Alvaro Dominguez flew a Russian-built AN-2 biplane on a four-hour, zig-zag course to confuse Cuban radar. Guided by a U.S. Coast Guard interceptor, he landed just before dawn at Opa-Locka Airport just north of Miami.
- June 7, 1996 Lieutenant Colonel José Fernández Pupo hijacks a Cubana An-2 with 10 passengers, flying from Bayamo to Santiago de Cuba, demanding at gunpoint to land in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. On May 29, 1997 he was declared not guilty by U.S. courts.
- July 26, 1996 An Iberia Airlines jumbo jet flying from Madrid to Havana with 286 people aboard is forced to land in Miami by a man brandishing scissors and a fake bomb. No one is injured.
- August 16, 1996 Commercial pilot Adel Given Ulloa and two other workers of Aerotaxi, Leonardo Reyes and José Roberto Bello, force pilot Adolfo Pérez Pantoja to fly to the United States. The plane ran out of fuel in the Florida Straits and fell to the sea 50 km south of Fort Myers. They were collected by a Russian ship. The three were declared not guilty of hijacking by a court in Tampa. All remained in the U.S.
- September 19, 2000 – An Antonov An-2 crashes into the sea west of Cuba. Cuban authorities said the plane was hijacked after take-off from Pinar del Río.
- July 31, 2001 – John Milo Reese steals a plane from Florida Keys Marathon Airport with the reported intention of delivering a pizza to Fidel Castro in an attempt to kidnap the Cuban leader. After crash-landing on a Cuban beach, he was returned to the United States, where he was convicted of transporting a stolen aircraft, and was sentenced to six months in jail. In a later interview, he admitted to being slightly intoxicated and having lost his bearings in the air.[dead link]
- August 14, 2001 – An elderly couple attempts to hijack a plane and force the pilot to fly to Cuba. In the ensuing scuffle the plane crashed into the sea near Florida and the couple drowned.
- November 11, 2002 – A Cuban An-2 aircraft, registration No. CU-C1086, is hijacked. The plane landed at the Pinar del Río airport before flying to Key West in Florida.
- March 19, 2003 – Six men, some armed with knives, take control of a Cuban state airline plane as it heads to Havana from Cuba's Isle of Youth. U.S. Air Force fighter jets intercepted the DC-3 plane, run by Cuban state airline Aerotaxi, shortly before it reached Florida late on Wednesday evening. The U.S. jets then escorted the plane to Key West's airport, where the suspects surrendered without incident.
- March 31, 2003 – A Cuban airliner is successfully hijacked to Key West with 32 people on board.
- April 1, 2003 – A man carrying two grenades hijacks a Cuban domestic airliner demanding that it fly to the United States; it landed in Havana due to insufficient fuel.
- May 3, 2007 – Two army recruits hijack a plane destined for Miami at José Martí International Airport in Havana. The men kill a hostage before being arrested prior to takeoff.
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