Also known as skyjacking, airline hijacking was first used as an act of terrorism in the late 1960s by terrorist groups who took command of flights and held passengers and crew hostage in order to make political demands. Press reports have placed the total number of airplane hijackings throughout history to about 1,000. Although many past hijackings ended in tragedy, the scope of hijacking horrors widened on September 11, 2001, when Al Qaeda operatives carried out a hijacking plot that created missiles out of commercial jetliners, destroying the World Trade Center, damaging the Pentagon, and killing thousands.

The first recorded air hijacking took place in 1931, in Peru. However, hijackings did not become well known until after World War II, when Eastern Europeans attempted to take over flights and cross over the line from communist-controlled Europe, landing outside of the so-called Iron Curtain.

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