The Skies Belong to Us

Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking

Koerner, Brendan I.

Book - 2013
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Skies Belong to Us
Random House, Inc.
In an America torn apart by the Vietnam War and the demise of sixties idealism, airplane hijackings were astonishingly routine. Over a five-year period starting in 1968, the desperate and disillusioned seized commercial jets nearly once a week, using guns, bombs, and jars of acid. Some hijackers wished to escape to foreign lands, where they imagined being hailed as heroes; others aimed to swap hostages for sacks of cash. Their criminal exploits mesmerized the country, never more so than when the young lovers at the heart of Brendan I. Koerner’s The Skies Belong to Us pulled off the longest-distance hijacking in American history.

A shattered Army veteran and a mischievous party girl, Roger Holder and Cathy Kerkow commandeered Western Airlines Flight 701 as a vague protest against the war. Through a combination of savvy and dumb luck, the couple managed to flee across an ocean with a half-million dollars in ransom, a feat that made them notorious around the globe. Koerner spent four years chronicling this madcap tale, which involves a cast of characters ranging from exiled Black Panthers to African despots to French movie stars. He combed through over 4,000 declassified documents and interviewed scores of key figures in the drama—including one of the hijackers, whom Koerner discovered living in total obscurity. YetThe Skies Belong to Us is more than just an enthralling yarn about a spectacular heist and its bittersweet, decades-long aftermath. It is also a psychological portrait of America at its most turbulent, and a testament to the madness that can grip a nation when politics fail.

Baker & Taylor
"Documents the sensational 1972 story of how an AWOL African-American Vietnam veteran and an ill-reputed California girl orchestrated the longest-distance hijacking in U.S. history, tracing the events of the hijacking against a backdrop of period civil unrest while explaining how the skyjacking wave of the early 1970s reflected key factors about crime and aviation security."

Book News
Koerner (author and contributing editor, Wired) relates the fascinating and strange story of Vietnam veteran Roger Holder and his girlfriend Cathy Kerkow who hijacked a Western Airlines flight as it neared Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in 1972. As Koerner explains, the period between 1968 and 1972 was plane hijacking season as hijackers took possession of (or tried to) U.S. flights on an average of once every two weeks. The author tells the story of the wildly successful Western Airlines hijacking and completes the story by relating what Holder and Kerkow did afterward. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

& Taylor

Documents the 1972 story behind the longest-distance hijacking in U.S. history, tracing the events of the hijacking against a backdrop of civil unrest and the skyjacking wave of the early 1970s.

Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, [2013], ©2013
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780307886101
Branch Call Number: 364.1552 K
Characteristics: 318 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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Thursday, November 21.

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Nov 20, 2013
  • claireswazey rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

Fascinating. Contained many facts and details about the hijacking era that I didn't know. From what I see here, seems like most of the hijackers were nuts. Not all of them seemed to be mentally ill- but quite a few obviously were. I had no idea that it was as widespread and common as it had become. The information about the hijacking era in general is what interested me the most-more than did the one specific story of Holder and Kerkow. Fun read.


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Koerner, Brendan I.
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