The only hijacker ever shot on an U.S. airliner, was on September 15, 1970 on board a TWA, Boeing 707 jet. The flight left Chicago for San Francisco, but gunman Don Irwin, 27, seized the plane just after an L.A. stopover. Irwin threatened flight attendants in the aft galley with his gun demanding the plane head to North Korea.
This particular plane was in no way equipped or even able to make such a journey. This hijacker was not quite as clever as he thought.
The pilot J.K. Gilman was informed of the hijacking and was aware that Robert Denisco, a Brinks guard was sitting in First Class wearing plain clothes. Capt. Gilman quickly used the telephone to ask a First Class fight attendant to tell Denisco what was going on and to, “tell him I said to go back and shoot that Bastard!”
I tracked down and interviewed Denisco, a Viet Nam combat veteran who was now living in Chicago just after the 9/11 attacks for ABC World News Tonight. Denisco’s saga was absolutely amazing to hear.
Denisco like everyone was horrified by the events and had a lot to say about the inability they had to deal with the attack. My interview with Denisco lasted well over an hour.
Denisco took the captain’s request seriously springing into action. He kept changing his seat slowly moving in the direction of the aft Galley. Stopping whenever he found an empty seat he look back and move a few more rows until he was right at the Galley. The gunman never noticed the Brink’s guard.
Denisco was thinking quickly and felt that he needed maximum cooperation from the passengers and flight attendants. So rather than to just jump up with his service revolver he did so yelling at the gunman, “Police Officer, drop your weapon!” Of course he was not a cop but under the dire circumstances who’d care.
The gunman suddenly spun pointing his gun in the direction of Denisco and the guard fired a single shot striking Irwin in the abdomen. Denisco quickly seized Irwin’s gun and the plane was able to make a safe landing. Through modern emergency medicine hijacker survived the shooting.
The follow up to this story should have inspired a motion picture but that never happened.