Crime | May 10, 2021 2:04 pm

Why Do Skyjackings Continue to Fascinate Us?

It's about more than D.B. Cooper

Jet seen from below
Looking back on a bygone time of airborne crime.
Deniz Altindas/Unsplash

Some were ideologically motivated; others were in it for the money. And whether they succeeded or failed, we’re still talking about them decades later. The subject at hand is skyjacking — a practice that, nearly 20 years after the September 11 attacks forever changed what hijacking a plane signified, now seems walled off from our own era.

Skyjacking turns up in popular culture in unexpected places. Allusions to D.B. Cooper — who hijacked a plane, collected a ransom and then dove out of the plane in midair — have cropped up in places as disparate as the crime drama Justified and the MCU spinoff Loki. And that’s just the beginning.

Writing at CrimeReads, Julia Sirmons looked back over the decades-long history of skyjacking and explored why it continues to fascinate so many of us. “Skyjacking stories hit us on psychological and visceral levels,” she writes. “They reveal the repressed risk inherent to air travel.” Sirmons also observes that recent political developments cause these events to feel more current.

“Skyjacking stories are freshly relevant, as the schizoid political climate of the ’60s and ’70s seems closer and closer to our own,” she notes.

The article also contains a host of recommended reading, from nonfiction looks at skyjacking like Brendan I. Koerner’s The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking to Elwood Reid’s D.B., a fictional take on the D.B. Cooper case. The whole article offers a fascinating look at a bygone part of aviation history — and ponders why airplane bathrooms have been the downfall of many a skyjacker.