The Golden Age of Hijacking

Dateline: Cuba

New Book Explores the Age of Air Piracy

This month is the 60th anniversary of the revolution in Cuba led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.  The revolutionary movement began July 26, 1953.  It is fitting that a new book has been published that explores the golden age of the airplane hijackers, a period that reached a crescendo between 1968 and 1973, when hundreds of attempted hijackings occurred, many of these being individuals who wanted to go to Cuba and obtain political asylum there.

Brendan Koerner’s book “The Skies Belong To Us, Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking” is a focused look at those exciting times.  Those were the days when you boarded a flight and there was a slight chance that you would end up somewhere other than your planned destination.  Talk about an exciting and dangerous vacation!  Many of these, of course, ended in death and tragedy. Here’s the story line, from Brendan Koerner’s website:

In an America torn apart by the Vietnam War and the demise of sixties idealism, airplane hijackings were astonishingly routine. Over a five-year period starting in 1968, the desperate and disillusioned seized commercial jets nearly once a week. Their criminal exploits mesmerized the country, never more so than when the young lovers at the heart of The Skies Belong to Us pulled off the longest-distance hijacking in American history.

A shattered Army veteran and a mischievous party girl, Roger Holder and Cathy Kerkow commandeered Western Airlines Flight 701 as a vague protest against the war. Through a combination of savvy and dumb luck, the couple managed to flee across an ocean with a half-million dollars in ransom, a feat that made them notorious around the globe. Over the ensuing years, their madcap adventures on the lam would involve exiled Black Panthers, African despots, and French movie stars.

Yet The Skies Belong to Us is more than just an enthralling yarn about a spectacular heist and its bittersweet aftermath. It is also a psychological portrait of America at its most turbulent, and a testament to the madness that can grip a nation when politics fail.

To view Koerner’s recent talk at Book Soup in Hollywood click here.

Or to watch the embedded version of the presentation, click on the window below.

To get a signed copy of the book, go to, or better yet, visit the store in person.