Sunday History Photo / Au

Submitted: Sunday, Jan 03, 2016 at 07:03
ThreadID: 131264 Views:1935 Replies:5 FollowUps:1
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ALEX Hildebrandt looked like any other passenger when he walked calmly onto the Trans-Australia Airlines passenger jet bound for Brisbane.
It was the last flight out of Sydney and the Russian immigrant, along with his 42 fellow passengers, had just passed through airport security that is nothing like we know today.
Which could go some way to explaining why Hildebrandt, then 22, had managed to pack a sawn-off shotgun in his carry-on luggage, as well as all the tools needed to make a bomb.
By the time the plane touched down in Brisbane that night, July 19, 1960, Australia — and the world — had suffered one of its earliest midair hijackings.
A Cathay Pacific flight that crashed into the sea off Macau was the first recorded commercial aircraft to be hijacked in 1948.
But it’s fair to say the threat of terror was not on the minds of travellers in 1960, especially involving a domestic Australian flight.

It was towards the end of the journey, as Captain John Denton was preparing to descend into the Queensland capital, when Hildebrandt, an unemployed labourer, emerged from the plane toilet where he had constructed a gelignite bomb.
Although it was far from a sophisticated device, it was capable of causing a major explosion that could have killed everyone on board.
When he’d returned to his seat, he summoned over flight attendant Janeene Christie, pulled out his .22 rifle, pointed at her and demanded: “Get me the captain.” Ms Christie complied, telling Captain Denton what was happening. He initially didn’t believe her but when he realised she was telling the truth — and the severity of the situation — he turned the plane towards the sea and alerted an off-duty pilot, Dinny Lawrence, he knew was on-board.

Over the next few minutes, the ultra-paranoid Hildebrandt began ranting and raving that he was going to destroy the plane with the gelignite attached to a detonator he’d built at home.
While he was making his threats, he was unaware that Mr Lawrence had silently walked up behind him. Mr Lawrence grabbed an axe that was supposed to be used in an emergency escape from the aircraft as he slipped into the seat behind Hildebrandt, who was demanding the plane be flown to Darwin or Singapore.
First officer Thomas Bennett and Mr Lawrence began grappling with Hildebrandt and tried to disarm him. As they began to get control and pinned him to his seat, the rifle fired.
The bullet just missed Mr Bennett and embedded in the plane’s roof.
Tom Bennet was awarded the George Medal for his actions and Captain Lawrence was commended for his part in subduing the highjack.

Another pilot, Warren Penny, who was also travelling on the flight as a passenger that day, helped to restrain Hildebrandt.
He later told media: “The captain shoved the machete at me and said, ‘If he moves, smash him across the skull’.
Once Hildebrandt realised he was beaten he kept muttering, “Am I going to die now?’
In the aftermath of the attempted hijacking, Hildebrandt was jailed on charges which included attempted murder and conspiring to destroy an aircraft.
In an incredible twist, the charges were later quashed on appeal, based on the fact Queensland Courts didn’t have jurisdiction because the plane had been in NSW airspace when Hildebrandt armed the explosives in the toilet.
He succeeded in being released but was immediately arrested by NSW Police and jailed in that state for seven years.


Janeene Christie’s husband John Reinhold told The Australian in 2003 his wife was so traumatised she quit her job soon after.
“Jan said there was one woman counting her rosary beads, and another one looked like she was having a heart attack.”
He was angry claims that a US flight in 1961 was the world’s first midair hijacking, despite the Australian incident happening a year earlier.

Happy New Year ...

.
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Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, Jan 03, 2016 at 10:47

Sunday, Jan 03, 2016 at 10:47
Hi Doug

Thanks again for that very interesting read.

All the best for 2016 and keep your Sunday Histories coming, as they are always very interesting.

Cheers

Stephen
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Reply By: Slow one - Sunday, Jan 03, 2016 at 12:30

Sunday, Jan 03, 2016 at 12:30
Doug,
My Dad was on that flight, coming home after buying some machinery.
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Reply By: Motherhen - Sunday, Jan 03, 2016 at 13:15

Sunday, Jan 03, 2016 at 13:15
What an amazing story, and one I had not heard before.

Motherhen

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Follow Up By: The Explorer - Sunday, Jan 03, 2016 at 18:48

Sunday, Jan 03, 2016 at 18:48
Hello

Yes interesting indeed...never heard of it before myself, but just before my "time" :)

Story posted was actually written by ANDREW KOUBARIDIS and published HERE on September 1st 2015. Easily missed.

Cheers
Greg
I sent one final shout after him to stick to the track, to which he replied “All right,” That was the last ever seen of Gibson - E Giles 23 April 1874

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Reply By: Peter F9 - Tuesday, Jan 05, 2016 at 09:30

Tuesday, Jan 05, 2016 at 09:30
Hi Doug,

I'm guessing I saw you rig parked downtown Orange over the Christmas break. Wild looking unit and the give away was the picture of Andrea on the side. Keep up the good work. Cheers Pete F
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Reply By: Life Member - Dunworkin (WA) - Wednesday, Jan 06, 2016 at 00:39

Wednesday, Jan 06, 2016 at 00:39
Thanks for the story Doug, I don't remember that one, very interesting...


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