01 January 2008

Searching the New York Times archive for my previous post, I came across two paywalled articles from January 1, 1953:

Passengers Terrified on Flight

MANILA, Dec. 31 – The wild plane ride to China with a dead pilot slumped over the controls and a dead purser lying in the aisle of a Philippine Air Lines plane was described today by the passengers who returned from Taipei, Formosa.

REDS TRIED TO HALT CHINA PLANE CHASE; Fired on Formosa Interceptor of the Philippine Airliner Seized by Gunman

TAIPEI, Formosa, Dec. 31 – The dramatic forcing down of a commandeered Philippine Air Lines passenger plane by the Nationalist Chinese Air Force was done after a two-hour-wave-hopping chase along the Communist-held China coast, according to Chinese Air Force Capt. Ku Chung-yu. Captain Ku said he was fired at by the Communists with small arms and anti-air guns during the chase.

And to learn more would cost $3.95 a piece, if it weren’t for the fact that the Time magazine archive isn’t so stingy:

Among the seven passengers on the Philippines Air Lines DC-3 that morning was a young Chinese in a leopard-skin jacket… On the plane manifest he was listed as Lucio Lee, but his real name was Ang Tiv-chok; he had left Amoy, in South China, in 1947, and now was wanted by the Philippines for attempted murder… The two pilots, thinking that a passenger had come in for a view of the cockpit, glanced behind them—and looked straight into the barrel of Ang’s .45 Colt. Ang thrust a typewritten note at them: “Do not be alarmed. I am a desperate man. This is a stickup. Do not talk to each other.” He ordered them to set a course for Amoy [Xiamen], some 500 miles away.

Ang shot and killed the captain and the steward after the captain attempted to disarm Ang by going into a nosedive, leaving co-pilot Gaston remaining to fly the plane. The Manila Times has more in a two parter:

At that time, the Philippines did not recognize China’s communist regime, set up just five years earlier by Chairman Mao Zedong.

Mao’s forces had driven the Nationalists headed by Chiang Kai-shek to Formosa (present-day Taiwan), where in 1950 he proclaimed the Republic of China.

In 1952 China and Taiwan were still technically at war — the Chinese Civil War having started in 1930 — and an incursion into the mainland by an aircraft from a country friendly to Taiwan could be taken as an act of aggression.

        That could mean imprisonment for Gaston, who was             then still a Philippine military officer. The Air Force had sent him             to work with PAL on temporary tour of duty in order to gain             experience.

Two Nationalist T6 Harvard warplanes caught up with the C38 and fired on it. “At Amoy, however, where he got rid of the Nationalist planes, Gaston flew the plane low and in between structures so as to avoid more gunfire, this time from the ground in mainland China.” Somehow convincing Ang they had to contact the T6s again, Gaston flagged them with a white hankerchief and was escorted to land at Quemoy (Kinmen), the tiny island off Xiamen that was and remains part of Taiwan. Ang was arrested by Nationalist troops and extradicted to the Philippines, only to be pardoned by President Carlos P. Garcia.

While the Manila Times describes it as the “world’s first-ever major air hijacking”, the first hijacking of a commercial flight occurred not far from Xiamen, on the Miss Macao, a Cathay Pacific seaplane flying from Macao to Hong Kong on July 16, 1948. Once again, the Time archive has the scoop:

In a Macao teahouse, Wong Yu, a babyfaced, 24-year-old farmer and a few of his friends decided to sell their rice paddies and take up piracy. They had $3,000 for expenses, and one of them, Mexican-born Chiu Tok, had learned to fly planes in Manila. Last week, Wong Yu confessed that they had committed the first recorded act of air piracy.

…One sultry afternoon last month, the four bought tickets for Hong Kong. Wong sat in the rear of the plane. Chiu Tok chose a seat near the compartment where two pilots, Dale Cramer, an American, and K. S. McDuff, sat at the controls. The pirates looked hungrily at four of their fellow passengers. They were Chinese millionaires who would bring fat ransoms.

…Chiu Tok moved forward, ordered Senior Pilot Cramer to surrender the controls to him. One of the passengers rose to interfere. The pirates shot him. Co-Pilot McDuff grabbed an iron flag bar and swung on Chiu Tok. In a panic, the pirates fired wildly at the two pilots. Cramer slumped dead over the controls. As screaming passengers spilled into the aisle, the plane came around in a wide circle. Out of control, it plummeted down into the South China Sea. > > Of the 23 who boarded the plane, the fishing junks found only one survivor—baby-faced Wong, who had managed to jump from a rear emergency exit. With a fractured leg, he was brought into a Macao hospital, where he confessed.

According to Wikipedia, Huang Yu 黃裕 was acquitted by the British colonial government of Hong Kong because the incident occurred over Chinese territory.

In1986,Taiwan-based China Airlines pilot Wang Xijue (王锡爵 aka Johnny Wang Shi Chuen, who flew u-2 flights over the Mainland in the 60s) defected to the Mainland in a China Airlines cargo plane. This effectively ended the “Three Noes” policy prohibiting direct contact between Taiwan and the Mainland, as the Taiwanese government was forced to meet the PRC in Hong Kong to negotiate the return of the plane and crew. Wang remained in China, and recently turned 80 years old.

In 1993 and 1994, China was gripped by hijacking fever as 16 Chinese nationals hijacked a combined 12 planes and diverted them to Taiwan seeking asylum. But in 1997 and 1998 were two other rather notable hijackings. On March 11, 1997, “A jobless journalist doused himself with petrol in a Taiwan airliner and hijacked it to China, where he complained of political repression by Taiwan and requested asylum.” The plane landed in Xiamen, and hijacker Liu Shan-chung was later repatriated, and seems to be the only other person to hijack a plane going from Taiwan to China and not the other way around.

Finally, one the last hijacks from the Mainland to Taiwan happened in late 1998, when 29 year old pilot Yuan Bin, with his wife Xu Mei on board, hijacked the Air China 737 he was flying and flew to Taiwan instead of Kunming. Like many hijacking defectors, Yuan Bin went on hungry strike after being arrested and imprisoned by Taiwanese authorities. In 2001, Yuan Bin and Xu Mei, along with six other hijackers, were repatriated to the Mainland. Their fate is uncertain.

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