Trans Australia Airlines Flight 408
|Date||19 July 1960|
|Aircraft type||Lockheed Electra|
|Operator||Trans Australia Airlines|
Forty three passengers and six crew were on board Flight 408, the last Sydney to Brisbane flight for the day. The crew consisted of Captain John Benton, First Officer Tom R. Bennett, a flight engineer and 2 stewardesses.
The hijacker, Russian Alex Hildebrandt, had a fully loaded sawn-off .22 calibre rifle and had suspended over a torch battery a bare wire attached to a detonator adjoining two sticks of gelignite. Another wire was attached from the gelignite to the battery. After demanding that the plane be redirected to Singapore, Hildebrandt fired a shot, which went through the aircraft ceiling, narrowly missing Bennett who punched Hildebrandt and pulled the wires from his hand and disabled the bomb. Captain Dennis Lawrence, an employee of TAA who was travelling as a passenger, assisted Bennett to subdue and disarm the hijacker. Tom Bennett was awarded the George Medal for his actions and Captain Lawrence was commended.
Hildebrandt, who was born in Russia in 1938, faced serious charges of attempted murder, having an explosive detonating device with the intention of destroying the aircraft and having explosives capable of causing injuries to persons on board. Hildebrandt was sentenced to three years in jail for attempted murder, ten years for attempting to destroy the aircraft and two years for the explosives charge.
He successfully appealed the sentence in the Queensland Criminal Court as he argued that the aircraft which was thirty five minutes into the flight, was over New South Wales when he armed the explosives in the aircraft toilet. He served a three-year sentence in Brisbane, for attempted murder and on discharge was arrested by detectives from New South Wales. He faced court again and was convicted on the charge of attempted destruction of an aircraft and sentenced to seven in prison in New South Wales.
- "'Crew fooled me and saved plane' - alleged statement". The Age. 31 August 1960. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
- "Airliner saved by crew's courage - Praise by detective at court hearing". The Age. 21 July 1960. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
- The Sunday Mail (Brisbane), 23 July 1995, Pages 57&87
- Contested Skies, John Gunn, ISBN 0-7022-3073-1, Page 171&172
- "BENNETT, Thomas Ross". It's an Honour. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
- "Seven Years over Bomb". The Sydney Morning Herald. 24 May 1963. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
- "Let's watch out for plane hijackers, too". The Sydney Morning Herald. 14 September 1969. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
- "Worlds First Aircraft Hijacking". Trans-Australian Airlines Museum. Archived from the original on 17 September 2009. Retrieved 2008-11-01.