Convicted skyjacker Martin J. McNally, told me the story of his attempted prison break. He said that a young woman named Robin Oswald attempted to hijack a plane and force the release of McNally and Gordon Trapnell. Mac had nothing to do with this attempt, except he was invited to go along by Trapnell.
In 1978, Robin Oswald, a 17-year-old high school dropout from suburban St. Louis, commandeered a flight en route to Kansas City from Louisville, KY. She sat in one of the back rows and communicated through notes handed to flight attendants. Oswald told the flight attendant that she had dynamite taped underneath her bulky sweater. Witnesses said wires ran from a row of sticks to a triggering device, which resembled a doorbell. Trapnell, who was serving a life sentence for skyjacking himself at the federal penitentiary in Marion, Ill. was in an Illinois courtroom facing charges of a previously attempted escape when Ms. Oswald was in the air threatening to blow up the plane.
Oswald delivered her hijack note when the plane was only eight miles from touching down in Kansas City. Oswald, ordered the seats near her cleared, stayed in the back. Without an explanation from the attendants, the passengers were crowded into the front rows and aisle. They learned they had been hijacked when Oswald insisted the pilots pipe their radio transmissions through the passenger cabin so she could hear the conversations. Unknown to her, the pilots still talked discreetly with TWA officials on a second radio.
“I figured she was going to suffocate everybody,” said Barnett Helzberg, who was returning to Kansas City from Cincinnati and sat not too far from Oswald. Mr. Helzberg, a Kansas City jewelry store owner, and the other passengers would soon escape leaving Ms. Oswald alone with the flight crew. Once she lost her hostages, an FBI agent talked her into giving up.
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