TWA Flight 541

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TWA Flight 541
Hijacking summary
Date December 21, 1978
Summary Hijacking
Site Williamson County, Illinois
Passengers 87
Survivors all
Aircraft type McDonnell Douglas DC-9
Operator Trans World Airlines
Flight origin Standiford Field, Louisville, KY
Stopover Williamson County Regional Airport (due to forced landing)
Destination Kansas City International Airport

TWA Flight 541 was a domestic passenger flight hijacked in the United States by Robin Oswald in an attempt to free Garrett Brock Trapnell, who was a prisoner at the United States Penitentiary, Marion (USP Marion).[1] The hijacking was successfully resolved when a Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) negotiating team had her release the passengers and then surrender.


On January 29, 1972 Garrett B. Trapnell hijacked a TWA plane flying from Los Angeles to New York. He demanded $US 306,800 (US$ equivalent to $1,756,595 in 2,016), the release of the imprisoned Angela Davis and a conversation with President Nixon.[2] The hijacking was resolved when Trapnell was disarmed after being shot by an F.B.I. agent who pretended to be a negotiator.[2]

On May 24, 1978 Trapnell's friend, 43-year-old Barbara Ann Oswald, a US Army staff sergeant on leave, hijacked a Saint Louis based charter helicopter and forced the pilot to land in the yard at United States Penitentiary, Marion. While landing the aircraft, the pilot, Vietnam War veteran Allen Barklage, struggled with Oswald and managed to wrestle the gun away from her. Barklage then shot and killed Oswald, thwarting the escape.[1]


On December 21, 1978 Robin Oswald, the 17-year-old daughter of Barbara Annette Oswald, hijacked TWA Flight 541 and demanded Trapnell be freed or she would detonate dynamite strapped to her body. She was remembered by the hostages aboard the flight as a "beautiful" but serious girl, never showing alarm at her actions.[3]

FBI negotiators were able to free the prisoners and have Oswald surrender with no injuries or deaths. The bomb that was strapped to her chest later emerged to be railroad flares wired to what appeared to be a doorbell.[4] Robin Oswald was charged as a juvenile with charges not being announced as is the law in Illinois.[5]


Garrett B. Trapnell died in prison, in 1993, of emphysema.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b St. Joseph News-Press (December 21, 1978). "Plane Hijacked". St. Joseph News-Press. News-Press & Gazette Company. p. Front Page. Retrieved January 10, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c Killen, Andreas (January 16, 2005). "The First Hijackers". The New York Times. Retrieved January 10, 2011. 
  3. ^ Lakeland Ledger (December 22, 1978). "Passenger - 'Beautiful Girl' was serious". Lakeland Ledger. Lakeland, Florida: The New York Times Company. p. 1. Retrieved January 10, 2011. 
  4. ^ Daily Union (December 27, 1978). "Ex-Fort Riley chief of staff recalls hijacking". Daily Union. Junction City, Geary County, Kansas: Montgomery Communications, Inc. 
  5. ^ Kentucky New Era (December 22, 1978). "17-Year-Old Hijacks To Free Hijacker". Kentucky New Era. p. 11. Retrieved January 10, 2011.