Nation: The $100 Million Skyjack

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I'M going to settle the tax case today," Arthur Gates Barkley told his wife Sue before leaving their modest home in northeast Phoenix, Ariz. The case concerned $471.78 owed to the Government in back taxes. A small amount, perhaps, to argue all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but Barkley, an unemployed truck driver, had done just that—and lost. At the airport he gave his wife a long, lingering kiss, then boarded TWA Flight 486 for Washington, a trip he had made several times before in seeking redress of his grievances.

Flight 486 was airborne only half an hour when Barkley entered the cockpit carrying a gun, a razor, and a can of what the crew took to be gasoline. He ordered Captain Dale C. Hupe to go directly to Washington, bypassing a scheduled stop at St. Louis. The pilot signaled ahead news of the hijacking. Then came what was perhaps the most spectacular message in aviation history: Barkley was demanding that the U.S. Supreme Court have $100 million in small bills delivered to the plane upon landing. Less than four hours later, Flight 486 touched down at Dulles International Airport.

Wading in Money. TWA was waiting with a considerably lower amount: $100,750 in cash (all that two nearby banks could give TWA) in a canvas bag. Captain Billy Williams, 46, TWA's senior international pilot, carried the money onto the plane. Williams, the hero of last October's epic California-to-Italy skyjacking, had once again volunteered to fly a hijacker abroad if necessary, since neither of the 727's two pilots was internationally qualified. A professional through and through, Williams is noted for keeping cool under pressure. Says TWA Captain Richard Hastings, who flew copilot on last fall's Roman odyssey: "During the whole trip to Rome he didn't show any emotion. He's a pilot's pilot who knows his job." Once in the cockpit, he tried to calm Barkley but, said Williams, "He was very much upset when he opened the bag and saw it wasn't $100 million. The money was all over the cockpit floor —he was wading in it. It was like a carpet." Thoroughly angered, Barkley ordered the aircraft back into the sky.

High and Low. Oddly enough, many of the 51 passengers did not realize that they were being hijacked until they were airborne a second time. Stewardesses had explained the St. Louis flyover as being due to bad weather. Once the word got around, however, an almost party-like atmosphere prevailed. Jokes were made about "Havana tonight" or "maybe Montreal," and drinks flowed readily. But up front the crew's mood was grim; they were convinced of Barkley's intent to kill himself and all those aboard.

Back in the air, he had begun acting even more irrational. Several times he had told the men in the cockpit: "When you go, you shouldn't go alone. You should take as many people and as much money as possible. Never go alone." When Williams asked if he could doff his jacket, Barkley replied, "Sure, might as well go down in comfort." Still aching for his $100 million, however, he gave ground authorities one more chance to raise the cash, which was to be in 100 sacks full of bills of not less than $100 denominations placed along the runway at Dulles. Then he ordered the airplane to return to Dulles.

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