Sit Down With Steve: Former Flight Attendant Linda Joiner Kolumbus Talks About Being Hijacked in July 1972

By  //  November 17, 2020

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Pan Am took over the National Airlines fleet and route network in 1980

WATCH – PART 1: In this edition of “Sit Down with Steve,” the Friday Night Locker Room’s Steve Wilson sits down with former National Airlines Flight Attendant Linda Joiner Kolumbus, who provided a riveting first-hand account of being hijacked on July 12, 1972.

WATCH – PART 2: In this edition of “Sit Down with Steve,” the Friday Night Locker Room’s Steve Wilson sits down with former National Airlines Flight Attendant Linda Joiner Kolumbus, who provided a riveting first-hand account of being hijacked on July 12, 1972.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – In the latest edition of “Sit Down with Steve,” the Friday Night Locker Room’s Steve Wilson sits down with former National Airlines Flight Attendant Linda Joiner Kolumbus, who provided a riveting first-hand account of being hijacked on July 12, 1972.

Following is an account of the highjacking by Chron.com:

In the second week of July 1972, chess kings Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky had just kicked off what was then called the “Match of the Century” in Reykjavík, Iceland.

About the same time, in Miami, Fla., Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern settled on Missouri Sen. Thomas Eagleton as his running mate, a move that soon proved disastrous in his bid to unseat President Richard Nixon.

Amid all that, on an overcast morning in Southeast Texas, a Boeing 727 made an unscheduled landing at a tiny Lake Jackson airport owned by Dow Chemical.

Eight people were aboard the National Airlines jet. A co-pilot, a flight engineer, four flight attendants, including Linda Joiner, and two hijackers.

••••••

On July 12, 1972, National Airlines Flight 496 was en route to New York from Philadelphia when 34-year-old Navy veteran Michael Stanley Green and 22-year-old Lulseged Tesfa brandished a .22-caliber handgun and a shotgun.

The two claimed to be carrying a bomb in a typewriter case. The men demanded $600,000 in ransom and a return to Philadelphia.

Upon landing there, the pilot escaped. Eventually, the passengers were released, after which Tesfa and Green took the crew — along with some parachutes and about $500,000 — and transferred to a second airplane.

From Philadelphia, the 727 made its way to Texas, flying over Dallas, then southward toward Intercontinental Airport and on to the Gulf of Mexico, in keeping with the hijackers’ apparent plans to go to Jamaica.

That wasn’t going to happen.

“We were up there over the Gulf with almost no fuel. We thought about trying to put it down on the beach but then we noticed Lake Jackson,” flight engineer and Spring resident Gerald Beaver told the Houston Post days after the hijacking. Beaver had received a minor gunshot wound to the leg while in Philadelphia.

On July 12, 1972, National Airlines Flight 496 was en route to New York from Philadelphia when 34-year-old Navy veteran Michael Stanley Green and 22-year-old Lulseged Tesfa brandished a .22-caliber handgun and a shotgun. ABOVE: Hijackers surrender while exiting the 727 at Lake Jackson airport, July 1972. (Image credit: Darrell Davidson, Chronicle file)

Boeing 727s aren’t really supposed to land on 5,000-foot runways. But as the jet touched down, the crew hit the brakes, causing the plane to swerve and throwing the hijackers off balance. In the process, two tires blew out.

As the aircraft came to a stop, co-pilot Norman Reagan and Beaver jumped out. Beaver was able to flee into some nearby woods, but Reagan was severely injured when he hit the ground.

Federal and local authorities quickly surrounded the plane and started negotiations. After a few hours, one of the flight attendants was released.

Negotiations went back and forth. The hijackers wanted National to send another jet, but the FBI refused. Plans to have an FBI agent fly the hijackers out of the airport on a Cessna fell through.

But a breakthrough came when the FBI sent in a team from Baltimore, which included agent Louis White.

In the latest edition of “Sit Down with Steve,” the Friday Night Locker Room’s Steve Wilson sits down with former National Flight Attendant Linda Joiner Kolumbus, above circa the early 1970s, who detailed being hijacked in 1972.

“We brought White up to talk to them. Green was the less militant of the two, so he was the guy we worked on. He wouldn’t talk to us, but the black agent talked to him like a brother,” Thomas J. Jordan, the FBI agent-in-charge of the Houston office, told the Post.

After 4 p.m., the hijackers said they would surrender only to the FBI and not to Texas authorities. With that, the remaining three flight attendants were released unharmed, the surrender took place and the 24-hour ordeal came to a close.

The only thing left to work out was how to get the 727 off the runway. Maintenance crews replaced the blown tires and — to keep the aircraft’s weight down for takeoff — put just enough fuel in the plane to get it to Intercontinental on July 14.

As for Tesfa and Green, newspaper reports indicate that FBI agents found plans for hijacking a plane and taking it to Mexico in a Washington, D.C., apartment linked to the two.

Both were later convicted of air piracy. Despite raising competency issues, Tesfa, an Ethiopian national and Howard University student, was sentenced to 60 years in prison. Green, a father, received a 50-year sentence.

Despite their lengthy sentences, both men were released from federal prisons in the early 1980s, according to Bureau of Prisons records.

– Chron.com

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