Federal Express Flight 705

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FedEx Express Flight 705
FedEx MD-10 N306FE.JPG
N306FE, the involved aircraft, landing at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, Nevada, in October 2016.
Hijacking summary
Date April 7, 1994 (1994-04-07)
Summary Attempted suicide hijacking
Site Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Passengers 1 (hijacker)
Crew 3
Fatalities 0
Injuries (non-fatal) 4 (all)
Survivors 4 (all)
Aircraft type McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30F
Operator Federal Express
Registration N306FE[1]
Flight origin Memphis International Airport
Memphis, Tennessee
Destination San Jose International Airport
San Jose, California

On April 7, 1994, Federal Express Flight 705, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 cargo jet carrying electronics equipment across the United States from Memphis, Tennessee to San Jose, California, was nearly hijacked by Auburn Calloway, who the prosecution argued was attempting to commit suicide. Calloway, a Federal Express employee, was facing possible dismissal for lying about his flight hours. He boarded the scheduled flight as a deadhead passenger carrying a guitar case concealing several hammers and a speargun. He intended to switch off the aircraft's cockpit voice recorder before take-off and, once airborne, kill the crew with hammers so their injuries would appear consistent with an accident rather than a hijacking. However, the CVR was switched back on by the flight engineer, believing that he had neglected to turn it on.

Calloway intended to use the speargun as a last resort. He planned to crash the aircraft hoping that he would appear to be an employee killed in an accident. He sought to let his family collect on a $2.5 million life insurance policy provided by Federal Express.[2] Calloway's efforts to kill the crew were unsuccessful. Despite severe injuries, the crew fought back, subdued Calloway, and landed the aircraft safely.

Calloway attempted to claim he was mentally ill during his trial, but was unsuccessful. He was convicted of multiple charges, including attempted murder, attempted air piracy, and interference with flight crew operations. He received two consecutive life sentences. Calloway successfully appealed the conviction for interference, which was ruled to be a lesser offense of attempted air piracy.[3]


The 42-year-old Federal Express flight engineer Auburn Calloway, an alumnus of Stanford University and a former Navy pilot and martial arts expert, faced dismissal over irregularities in the reporting of flight hours.[3] In order to disguise the hijacking as an accident, so his family would benefit from his $2.5 million life insurance policy, Calloway intended to murder the flight crew using blunt force. To accomplish this, he brought aboard two claw hammers, two club hammers, a speargun, and a knife (which was not used) concealed inside a guitar case.[3][4] Just before the flight, Calloway had transferred over $54,000 in securities and cashier's checks to his ex-wife.[3] He also carried a note aboard, written to her and "describing the author's apparent despair".[3]

Flight details[edit]

As part of his plan to disguise the intended attack as an accident, Calloway attempted to disable the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) by pulling its circuit breaker to interrupt CVR power. During standard pre-flight checks, 39-year old flight engineer Andy Peterson noticed the pulled breaker and reset it before take-off so the CVR was reactivated. However, if Calloway successfully killed the crew members with the CVR still on, he would simply have to fly for 30 minutes to erase any trace of a struggle from the CVR's 30 minute loop.[5] About twenty minutes after takeoff, as the flight crew carried on a casual conversation, Calloway entered the flight deck and commenced his attack with the hammers. Every member of the crew took multiple hammer blows which fractured both Peterson's and 42-year old co-pilot Jim Tucker's skulls, severing Peterson's temporal artery.[3] The blow to Tucker's head initially rendered him unable to move or react but he was still conscious. 49-year old Captain Dave Sanders reported that during the beginning of the attack, he could not discern any emotion from Calloway, just "simply a face in his eyes". When Calloway ceased his attack with hammers, Peterson and Sanders began to get out of their seats to counter-attack. Calloway left the cockpit and retrieved his spear gun. He came back into the cockpit and threatened everyone to sit back down in their seats. Despite loud ringing in his ear and being dazed, Peterson grabbed the gun by the spear between the barbs and the barrel. A lengthy struggle ensued with the flight engineer and captain as Tucker, also an ex-Navy pilot, performed extreme aerial maneuvers with the aircraft.

Tucker pulled the plane into a sudden 15 degree climb, throwing Sanders, Peterson and Calloway out of the cockpit and into the galley. To try to throw Calloway off balance, Tucker then turned the plane into a left roll, almost on its side. This rolled the combatants along the smoke curtain onto the left side of the galley. Eventually, Tucker had rolled the plane nearly upside down at 140 degrees, while attempting to maintain a visual reference of the environment around him through the windows. Peterson, Sanders and Calloway were then pinned to the ceiling of the plane. Calloway managed to reach his hammer hand free and hit Sanders in the head again. Just then, Tucker put the plane into a steep dive. This pushed the combatants back to the seat curtain, but the wings and elevators started to flutter. At this point Tucker could hear the wind rushing against the cockpit windows. At 530 mph (853 kph), the elevators on the plane became unresponsive due to the disrupted airflow. Tucker realized this was because the throttles were at full power. Releasing his only usable hand to pull back the throttles to idle, he managed to pull the plane out of the dive while it slowed down.

Calloway managed to hit Sanders again while the struggle continued. Sanders was losing strength and Peterson was heavily bleeding from a ruptured artery. Sanders managed to grab the hammer out of Calloway's hand and attacked him with it. When the plane was completely level, Tucker reported to Memphis Center, informed them about the attack and requested a vector back to Memphis. He requested an ambulance and "armed intervention", meaning he wanted SWAT to storm the plane. When Tucker began to hear the fight escalate in the galley, he put the aircraft into a right turn then back to the left.

The flight crew eventually succeeded in restraining Calloway, though only after moments of inverted and near-transonic flight beyond the designed capabilities of a DC-10. Sanders took control and Tucker, who had by then lost use of the right side of his body, went back to assist Peterson in restraining Calloway. Sanders communicated with air traffic control, preparing for an emergency landing back at Memphis International Airport. Meanwhile, after screaming that he could not breathe, Calloway started fighting with the crew again.

Heavily loaded with fuel and cargo, the plane was approaching too fast and too high to land on the scheduled runway 9. Sanders requested by radio to land on the longer runway 36L. Ignoring warning messages from the onboard computer and using a series of sharp turns that tested the DC-10's safety limits, Sanders landed the jet safely on the runway at well over its maximum designed landing weight. By that time, Calloway was once again restrained. Emergency personnel and police gained access to the plane via escape slide and ladder. Inside, they found the cockpit interior covered in blood.[5] Calloway was then arrested and taken off the plane.


The crew of Flight 705 sustained serious injuries.[3] The left side of Tucker's skull was severely fractured, causing motor control problems in his right arm and right leg. Calloway had also dislocated Tucker's jaw, attempted to gouge out one of his eyes and stabbed his right arm. Sanders suffered several deep gashes in his head and doctors had to sew his right ear back in place. Flight engineer Peterson's skull was fractured and his temporal artery severed. The aircraft itself incurred damages in the amount of $800,000.[3]

Calloway pleaded temporary insanity but was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences (federal sentences are not subject to parole) on August 15, 1995, for attempted murder and attempted air piracy.[2] Calloway, Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate #14601-076, is imprisoned in the medium-security Federal Correctional Institution, Victorville, in Victorville, California.[6]

On May 26, 1994, the Air Line Pilots Association awarded Dave Sanders, James Tucker and Andrew Peterson the Gold Medal Award for heroism, the highest award a civilian pilot can receive. Ten years after the incident and due to the extent and severity of their injuries, none of the crew had been recertified as medically fit to fly commercially.[7] However, James Tucker returned to recreational flying in his Luscombe 8A by 2002.[8]

As of 2016, the McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 aircraft involved, N306FE, remains in service as an upgraded MD-10 without the flight engineer position,[9] though it is expected to be phased out by 2018. The plane first flew on December 6, 1985 and was delivered to FedEx on January 24, 1986.

Popular culture[edit]

The attempted hijacking was later featured on Discovery Channel Canada's television show Mayday (otherwise known as Air Crash Investigation or Air Emergency). The episode (season 3, episode 4) was titled "Fight for Your Life" (also known as "Suicide Attack"). In 2015, the Smithsonian Channel devoted episode 3 of season 6 of "Air Disasters" to the same "Fight for your Life" footage.

"Survival in the Sky" Episode Six, "Sky Crimes", also features the attempted takeover using audio between Air Traffic Control and the crew.

The book Hijacked: The True Story of the Heroes of Flight 705, written by Dave Hirshman, was published in 1997.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "FAA Registry". Federal Aviation Administration. 
  2. ^ a b National Geographic, Mayday (Air Crash Investigation or Air Emergency). Episode (Season 3, Episode 4), "Fight for Your Life (Suicide Attack)"
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "U.S. v. Calloway". Leagle. Retrieved December 16, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Jet Lands Safely After Attack on Crew". The Washington Post. 8 April 1994. Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  5. ^ a b Cockpit Voice Recorder Database, 7 April 1994 - Fedex 705, tailstrike.com. Accessed April 7, 2012.
  6. ^ "14601-076." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved June 27, 2016.
  7. ^ "Air Crash Investigation - Season 3 Episode 4 - Fight For Your Life". 2005. Retrieved March 29, 2016. 
  8. ^ a b "[1]" AVWeb. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  9. ^ "Federal Express (FedEx) Fleet Details and History". 

Further reading[edit]

  • Dave Hirschman and William Morrow (1997), Hijacked: The True Story of the Heroes of Flight 705, ISBN 978-0-688-15267-3.

External links[edit]