Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking by Brendan I. Koerner

A book about the “golden age of hijacking” is a fascinating topic set in an era I knew a little bit about but the sheer excessive amount I didn’t know was impressive. I was certainly aware that terrorists and thieves had taken advantage of lax airport (or, perhaps, completely stark raving absent) security back in the 1970s… I knew about Palestinian terrorists who hijacked airplanes and blew them up on the tarmac and about famous thief D.B. Cooper (and the money he took). What I didn’t know about was the scale and the shocking (even by the day, I’d think) lack of security and the complete disinterest in adding security of any kind the airlines (and the FAA) had. But mainly it was the scale – the sheer volume – of hijackings reported… and the evolution of the activity… that was most mind-boggling. I certainly was alive during this era but too young to have been aware of the news stories.

This is the best kind of recent history… something of which one may have direct experience (air travel and TSA security) and with recent history in the back of your head (9/11) which is (to the credit of the author) never milked or mentioned in the book. I assume the author figured the reader could put 2 and 2 together on that connection.

The fiction-like approach of what is a populist-focused historical account wasn’t always welcome at first but I got into the writer’s prose well enough that, by mid-point, I was thoroughly into the story as a piece of pseudo-fiction. I probably would have been more appreciative of more insight into the political and financial decisions made by bureaucrats and airlines executives… but what there was still quite intriguing.

A solid, informative read.

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