Losses and Aviation Safety

When a FedEx Flight Engineer tried to hijack a company DC-10 cargo aircraft, its aircrew went inverted to keep him off his feet. The story of FedEx Flight 705.

‘To keep the bad guy off his feet, the first officer threw the FedEx DC-10 cargo aircraft into all sorts of manoeuvres, including inverted flight,’ Keith Shergold, former airline transport pilot.

On Apr. 7, 1994, Federal Express Flight 705 (FedEx Flight 705), a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 cargo jet carrying electronics equipment across the United States from Memphis, Tennessee, to San Jose, California, was involved in a hijack attempt by Auburn R. Calloway, who the prosecution argued was trying to commit suicide. 

According to Wikipedia, three flight crew members were in the cockpit on this flight: 49-year-old Captain David G. “Dave” Sanders, who had worked for FedEx for 20 years and previously served with the US Navy for nine years during the Vietnam War; 42-year-old First Officer James M. “Jim” Tucker Jr., who had worked for FedEx for 10 years and previously served with the US Navy for 12 years during the Vietnam War and People Express Airlines for three years; and 39-year-old Flight Engineer Andrew H. “Andy” Peterson, who had worked for FedEx for 5 years.

Calloway,a 42-year-old FedEx Flight Engineer, an alumnus of Stanford University and a former Navy pilot and martial-arts expert, who was facing possible dismissal over falsifying of his flight hours, was also in the airplane.  

He boarded the scheduled flight as a deadhead passenger carrying a guitar case concealing several hammers and a speargun. He tried to switch off the aircraft’s cockpit voice recorder (CVR) before takeoff and, once airborne, kill the crew with hammers so their injuries would appear consistent with an accident rather than a hijacking. The CVR, though, was switched back on by the flight engineer, believing that he had neglected to turn it on.

Keith Shergold, former airline transport pilot, recalls on Quora;

‘Basically, a deranged flight engineer who was travelling as a passenger on a FedEx cargo DC-10 was suicidal and had brought a hammer, spear gun and other crap with him. His intention was to kill the crew and die in the crash. Because he was an employee and it was a cargo plane, he was able to smuggle his weapons aboard.

‘Once in the air, he came into the cockpit and used his hammer to bash in the heads of the pilots and the flight engineer. Despite receiving terrible brain injuries, the Captain and the Flight Engineer went into the back to fight the bad guy while the third tried to control the plane. To keep the bad guy off his feet, the first officer threw the plane into all sorts of manoeuvres, including inverted flight. His brain injury made it impossible to control half of his body, but he used his remaining one arm and leg to do aerobatics in this enormous jetliner until his mates in the back managed to subdue the bad guy. Despite their horrifying injuries, the three crewmates then landed the plane. None of them were ever able to fly again. The bad guy is in jail for two consecutive life sentences, obviously.’

The following video tells the story of Federal Express Flight 705 and its heroic crew.

Photo credit: X Pilot

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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