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Arthur G. Barkley’s Desperate Attempt at Ransom: The Story of the 1970 TWA Hijacking

The story of the 1970 TWA hijacking by unemployed bread truck driver Arthur G. Barkley who, distraught from losing his job, attempted to ransom the plane for $100 million. Learn about the hijacking and heroic actions of the plane's captain!
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Arthur G. Barkley was an unemployed bread truck driver from Phoenix hijacked a Washington-bound TWA jet, demanding $100 million in ransom. He was distraught from losing his job, became embroiled in lawsuits against his employer, the Teamsters Union, and the IRS, which accused him of failing to pay $471.78 in 1964 income taxes.

Originally his claim for the ransom was to be paid by the Supreme Court, since they refused to hear an appeal of his case against the IRS.

TWA Boeing 727, similar to the hijacked aircraft

The flight took off from Phoenix on June 4th, 1970, with a scheduled layover in St. Louis and then onward to National Airport. St. Louis was skipped and the plane was rerouted to Dulles Airport, landing at 3:40 pm. On the ground at Dulles, the plane took on fuel and sat for 54 minutes as Captain Billy Neal Williams, a veteran pilot, volunteered to board and fly the plane.

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He boarded through the rear emergency stairs carrying a sack containing $100,750, and soon after, the plane took off again, destination unknown.

Barkley, visibly upset at the meager ransom amount, radioed after takeoff with a message directed at President Nixon:

You don’t know the rules of law. You don’t even know how to count money.

Shortly after 6:15, Captain Williams radioed that the plane would be returning to Dulles with the firm demand from the hijacker that the full ransom be waiting in $100 bills upon landing. Immediately after putting the plane on the ground, it was surrounded by fuels trucks and police cars, while FAA policemen shot out the aircraft’s rear tires.

The FBI had placed 100 sacks stuffed with paper as a decoy on the runway, hoping to lure Barkley from the plane. Captain Williams slipped out of the cockpit to help the passengers sneak out the rear of the plane as the rest of the cockpit crew distracted the hijacker. As he hurried them from the plane, he was thrown a revolver by law enforcement on the ground.

FBI agents boarded through the rear of the aircraft, making their way up to the cockpit. Williams crouched behind a seat and took aim at Barkley, and, with hands shaking, convinced himself that he had to pull the trigger. One agent approached the door, attempted to enter and was violently shoved out.

Four shots rang out, a crew member was shot in the stomach and Barkley on his thumb. The hijacking was over and Williams didn’t have to fire his gun.

Barkley was led away in handcuffs, screaming the entire way.

The press wrote about the brave heroics of Captain Williams, noting that he had done the same thing on a hijacked aircraft the year before. A Boeing 707 was taken at Kennedy Airport in New York and he volunteered to fly the hijacker to his destination in Rome.

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