Eamon O Buadhachain recalls famous hijackings which involved the Co. Clare airport


For an older generation of travellers crossing the Atlantic, a stopover at Shannon airport was part of the itinerary up to 2008 when the compulsory stopover was phased out.

Today, for many of us travelling through an airport, we take the security almost for granted, enhanced since the terrible events of 9/11 and a growth in Islamic terrorism.

For those who could afford to travel by plane in the late sixties and seventies, the threat of hijacking was the real enemy. During that period, lax security both in airport terminals and on board, provided opportunities for various radicals to seize an aircraft to make political demands or purely for financial gain.

In the United States in the sixties, there was an average of one hijacking every six days; 56 alone in the United States in 1969.

It was inevitable that Ireland in some way would be touched by these events and in the forefront of the battle was Shannon Airport, and these events would place the County Clare airport on newspaper front pages across the world.
The first big event to hit the airport was the hijacking of an internal US TWA flight on October 31st, 1969, as it flew from Baltimore to San Francisco with a number of stops in between.

Raphael Minichiello, a disgruntled US Marine who had served in Vietnam and claimed that the Army had cheated him out of $200, joined the flight in Los Angeles, the penultimate stop, and as it was about to land at San Francisco, produced a M1 rifle, took an air hostess hostage, and demanded that the pilot take him to Cairo.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own