The Story Behind the Semi-nude FBI Agent Delivering $1 Million Ransom to Skyjackers, 1972

In 1972, Wright held a gun to the head of a pilot on a plane packed with 86 passengers. He received a million dollars in cash – the largest ransom ever paid in an airplane hijacking in the United States – and forced the plane to fly to Algeria. Then he disappeared. In September 2011, he was caught.

FBI Agent

Photo Above – July 1972: an FBI agent, wearing only a pair of swim trunks, per the hijackers’ instructions, carries a case containing a $1 million ransom to the opened door of a hijacked Delta DC8 jet in Miami. The jet later took off for Algeria. George Wright, a convicted killer and 1970s militant, was among the hijackers.

Wright first became notorious in 1962 for his part in the slaying of New Jersey gas station owner Walter Patterson. The Asbury Park Press says Wright and three other people shot and killed Patterson as they robbed his Esso station in Wall. The group escaped with about $70 and they were caught two days later. Wright received a prison term from 15 to 30 years.

In 1970, he and two accomplices escaped from their prison in Leesburg, N.J., boldly stealing the warden’s car to get away, according to MSNBC. Wright ended up in Detroit and joined the Black Liberation Army; he apparently was able to work part-time as a model by using an alias.

Authorities saw him next disguised as a priest; on July 31, 1972, Wright and four members of the BLA commandeered a Delta flight en route from Detroit to Miami. As CNN notes, the group held 88 people hostage on the Miami tarmac until federal agents brought out a one million dollar ransom. The agents were forced to wear bathing suits as they delivered the cash because the hijackers were wary of guns.

The passengers were released and the pilots flew Wright and the other hijackers on to Boston, where an international navigator (who also had to wear swimming trunks) boarded the plane. Then they traveled to Algeria.

Wright and the other hijackers sought political asylum, which Algerian leaders never granted them, according to AP.

More of the story here.

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