How a FedEx team overcame serious injuries to recover from a hijacking situation and land safely

This week marked the 28th anniversary of a dangerous situation that occurred aboard a DC-10 freighter operated by Federal Express (FedEx). In the incident in question, the aircraft crew fought a hijacker, who also turned out to be an employee of the company. Let’s take a look at what exactly happened that day.

A flight like any other

FedEx Flight 705 originated from the airline’s main hub, Memphis International Airport (MEM) in Tennessee. His destination was Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) in California. Operated by a McDonnell Douglas DC-10, this would have been one of many such daily departures from Memphis.

On April 7, 1994, the flight to San José was being operated by a crew of three. This consisted of Captain David G. Sanders, First Officer James M. Tucker Jr, and Flight Engineer Andrew H. Peterson. Previously, the role of the flight engineer was a common aspect of older aircraft, before the introduction of glass cockpits.

There was also a fourth person on board, namely Aubrey Calloway. Like Peterson, Calloway was also a flight engineer, but for this particular industry, he simply rode in the jump seat on the plane. However, Calloway had intentions that were far more sinister than simply “heading” for San Jose, as it soon became clear.

FedEx McDonnell Douglas MD-10F

attacked in the air

According to the Aviation Safety Network, Calloway was facing termination from FedEx for lying about his previous flight experience. In retaliation, he hatched a plan to shoot down one of the company’s planes. The first stage of this was disabling the cockpit voice recorder to cover their tracks, although it was turned back on.

Calloway aimed to render the flight crew unable to control the plane, before crashing the plane himself. His goal was reportedly to appear to be the victim of an accident, which would allow his family to benefit from a life insurance payout. As such, as the aircraft climbed to 19.00 feet 26 minutes after departing from Memphis, he attacked the three flight crew members multiple times with a hammer.

Calloway then grabbed a harpoon gun, which Peterson tried to wrestle from him while Tucker, despite his injuries, forced the plane to climb before rolling it to try and knock Calloway off balance. Following this, he put the aircraft into a steep dive, before leveling off at 5,000 feet due to unresponsive control surfaces. Now level, Sanders finally managed to attack and disarm Calloway.

FedEx Memphis Map

The plane that Calloway tried to hijack 28 years ago is still active today. Image:

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the end of ordeal

Despite serious injuries and $800,000 ($1.5 million today) of damage to the aircraft, the crew was eventually able to land in Memphis. The urgency of the situation meant that there was no time to offload fuel, and the aircraft was subsequently 16,000 kg over its maximum landing weight when it landed. Calloway received two life sentences for attempted murder for air piracy.

As for the aircraft, which bears the registration N306FE, notes that it remains in service today at the ripe old age of 36.45 years. It has been with FedEx for its entire career, although, according to, it was out of service between September 2007 and April 2008. During this time, it was converted from a DC-10 to an MD-10, which eliminated the need of a flight engineer.

What do you think of this incident? Can you remember what happened at that time? let us know your thoughts and memories in the comments.

Source: Aviation Safety Network

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