Today, 76 years ago, the first SAA plane hijacking takes place


The first hijacking of a South African Airways (SAA) plane took place when two men armed with gelignite sticks hijacked a SAA Boeing 727 tri-jet, the Letaba, en route from Durban to Johannesburg and Salisbury.

The Letaba, which was carrying fifty-four passengers, was piloted by Capt. Blake Flemington. All but five of the passengers were set free at Salisbury Airport where the aircraft was refuelled. From Salisbury, the aircraft landed at Chileka Airport in Blantyre, Malawi, with the Seychelles as its destination. At Chileka the remaining five passengers escaped during a diversion the following day.

The two hijackers finally surrendered at Chileka Airport. According to Joppie Nieman who was a crew member on board the aircraft, the plane was not en route from Durban or Johannesburg. “The aircraft actually took off from Salisbury and we had just started our descent for landing at Johannesburg when the hi-jack drama started.

The aircraft then landed at Salisbury, before taking off en route to the Seychelles, and then Capt Balke Flemington persuaded the highjackers that it would be in everybody’s best interest to rather land at Blantyre”, he added.

Source: South African History Online

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