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Sully's Miracle On The Hudson Has Nothing On This Harrowing Flight

When people tend to think of Sully Sullenberger it is usually in admiration for his harrowing “Miracle on the Hudson,” or the subsequent film in which he is played by America’s dad, Tom Hanks.

There is an even more incredible “flight gone wrong” story.

While Sully’s story may go down as a heroic feat, it has nothing on this FedEx flight crew that inverted a cargo jet, pinning a hijacker to the ceiling of the plane.

"In 1994, Federal Express Flight 705, a cargo jet carrying electronics equipment across from Memphis to San Jose was involved in a hijack attempt by a Federal Express employee named Auburn R. Calloway, who the prosecution argued was trying to commit suicide." -via theaviationgeekclub.com

Calloway had initially boarded as a “deadhead passenger,” carrying only a guitar case. This does not mean that he was a stoned fan of the Grateful Dead, but rather that he was able to ride for free as a member of the transport company’s staff, so that he could be in the right place to fulfill his duties.

Giphy Images.

The unsuspecting crew did not realize that the guitar case Calloway had brought on was concealing several hammers and a spear gun. We have no idea of what he would do with the spear gun, but investigators assumed it could have been used as a last resort.

"While boarding, he tried to switch off the aircraft's cockpit voice recorder before takeoff and, once airborne, he planned to kill the crew with hammers so their injuries would appear consistent with an accident rather than a hijacking. The recorder, though, was switched back on by the flight engineer, believing that he had neglected to turn it on." 

Quick pause here for a second. First of all, I do not know what Calloway was thinking in staging this as an accident. If the rest of the crew had head injuries that indicated it was an accident rather than a hijacking, then what about his own lack of injury to the back of the head? He would easily be identified as the killer! Also, shout out the flight engineer for noticing the recorder was off. All time "way to do your job" moment. 

Calloway’s main goal was to take out the crew and have it appear that he too was an employee killed in an accident, so that his family could collect on a $2.5 million life insurance policy provided by FedEx. On paper it’s not a bad plan, but little did Calloway know that he had fucked with the wrong crew.

The crew consisted of:

“49-year-old Captain Dave Sanders, [who] worked for FedEx for 20 years and previously served with the U.S. Navy for nine years during the Vietnam War and 42-year-old First Officer Jim Tucker Jr., who had worked for FedEx for 10 years and previously served with the U.S. Navy for 12 years during Nam… and 39-year-old Flight Engineer Andy Peterson, who had worked for FedEx for 5 years.” 

With Tucker guiding the flight, Peterson grabbed Calloway’s spear gun when he reentered the cockpit. Tucker simultaneously and suddenly then put the aircraft into a 15 degree climb. Sanders, Peterson, and Calloway were all then thrown from the cockpit and into the galley.

“To try to throw Calloway off balance, Tucker then turned the plane into a left roll, almost on its side. This rolled the combatants onto the left side of the galley.”

“Tucker then rolled the plane almost upside down at 140°, pinning Peterson, Sanders, and Calloway to the ceiling of the plane, but Calloway managed to wrench his hammer hand free and hit Sanders in the head again.” -via Wikipedia

This image is wild! Three guys pinned to the ceiling of a plane, one being the hijacker, yet he is still able to get his hands on a freaking hammer and attack Sanders. Insane.

“Then, Tucker put the plane into a steep dive at a speed of 530 mph testing the aircraft’s safety limits and throwing the men to the back of the plane.”

“As the DC-10 leveled off at 5,000 feet, Peterson was bleeding out from his ruptured temporal artery and going into shock, but Sanders managed to grab the hammer out of Calloway's hand and attacked him with it and eventually succeeded in restraining and disarming Calloway.” 

@twistedhistorypodcast Mid-air attack #history #historytime #historybuff ♬ original sound - TwistedHistory

“Sanders then went to the cockpit and took control from Tucker, who by then had his sense of touch severely diminished and was paralyzed on the right side of his body." 

Giphy Images.

Sanders was then able to land the plane safely on a nearby runway, and upon landing was taken to the hospital alongside Peterson and Tucker, while Calloway was arrested. 

Although the crew of Flight 705 all survived, they were seriously injured. Emergency personnel found the interior covered in blood, which isn’t a surprise giving the extent of the injuries endured:

"The left side of Tucker's skull was severely fractured, causing motor control problems in his right arm and right leg… Calloway had also dislocated Tucker's jaw, attempted to gouge out one of his eyes, and stabbed his right arm."

“Captain Sanders suffered several deep gashes in his head, and doctors had to sew his right ear back in place.”

“Flight engineer Peterson's skull was fractured and his temporal artery severed.”

“The aircraft itself incurred $800,000 worth of damage.” 

The actions of the crew would be publicly recognized, as all three were awarded the Gold Medal award for heroism, which is the highest award a civilian pilot can receive. The real tragedy was that due to the extent of their injuries from the flight, none of the crew members were deemed medically fit to fly commercially. I guess if you were going to have one last ride, this would have been the most badass way for it to have gone down.

As for Calloway, he now resides at USP Allenwood in Pennsylvania, where he is now known as Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate #14601-076 after he was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for attempted murder and air piracy.

What do you think? Is Sully’s story any more filmworthy than this crew’s daring mid-air battle? I for one think Tucker’s control of the plane to throw Calloway off would have been an incredible 20 minute action finale that would blow Sully out of the water. 

For more on FedEx Flight 705, and other flights that went wrong, check out “The Twisted History of Pilots Part 1” out now!