N306FE, the aircraft involved, taxiing at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport in 1986
|Date||7 April 1994|
|Summary||Attempted suicide hijacking for insurance fraud, subsequent emergency landing|
|Site||Memphis, Tennessee, United States|
|Aircraft type||McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30F|
|Aircraft name||John Peter Jr.|
|Destination||San Jose International Airport|
San Jose, California
On April 7, 1994, Federal Express Flight 705, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 cargo jet carrying electronics equipment across the United States from Memphis, Tennessee to San Jose, California, was involved in a hijack attempt by Auburn R. Calloway, who the prosecution argued was trying to commit suicide. Calloway, a Federal Express employee, was facing possible dismissal for lying about his flight hours. He boarded the scheduled flight as a deadhead passenger carrying a guitar case concealing several hammers and a speargun. He intended to switch off the aircraft's cockpit voice recorder before takeoff and, once airborne, kill the crew with hammers so their injuries would appear consistent with an accident rather than a hijacking. However, the CVR was switched back on by the flight engineer, believing that he had neglected to turn it on.
Calloway intended to use the speargun as a last resort. He planned to crash the aircraft hoping that he would appear to be an employee killed in an accident. He sought to let his family collect on a $2.5 million life insurance policy provided by Federal Express. Calloway's efforts to kill the crew were unsuccessful. Despite severe injuries, the crew fought back, subdued Calloway, and landed the aircraft safely.
During his trial, Calloway claimed that he had been mentally ill, but was unsuccessful. He was convicted of multiple charges, including attempted murder, attempted air piracy, and interference with flight crew operations. He received two consecutive life sentences. Calloway successfully appealed the conviction for interference, which was ruled to be a lesser offense of attempted air piracy.
Also in the airplane was 42-year-old FedEx flight engineer Auburn Calloway, an alumnus of Stanford University and a former Navy pilot and martial arts expert, who was facing possible dismissal over falsifying of flight hours. In order to disguise the hijacking as an accident, so his family would benefit from his US$2.5 million (equivalent to $4,225,977 in 2018) life insurance policy, Calloway intended to murder the flight crew using blunt force. To accomplish this, he brought on board two claw hammers, two club hammers, a speargun, and a knife (which was not used) concealed inside a guitar case. He also carried with him a note written to his ex-wife and "describing the author's apparent despair". Just before the flight, Calloway had transferred over US$54,000 (equivalent to $91,281 in 2018) in securities and cashier's checks to his ex-wife.
Before takeoff, as part of his plan to disguise the intended attack as an accident, Calloway attempted to disable the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) by pulling its circuit breaker to interrupt CVR power. During the standard pre-flight checks, flight engineer Peterson noticed the pulled breaker and reset it before takeoff so the CVR was reactivated. However, if Calloway killed the crew members with the CVR still on, he would simply have had to fly for 30 minutes to erase any trace of a struggle from the CVR's 30-minute loop.
About twenty minutes after takeoff, as the flight crew carried on a casual conversation, Calloway went into the back to get his weapons and entered the flight deck and commenced his attack. All three members of the crew took multiple hammer blows. Both Peterson and first officer Tucker suffered fractured skulls, and Peterson's temporal artery was severed. The blow to Tucker's head initially rendered him unable to move or react but he was still conscious. Captain Sanders reported that during the beginning of the attack, he could not discern any emotion from Calloway, just "simply a face in his eyes".
When Calloway ceased his hammer attack, Peterson and Sanders began to get out of their seats to counter-attack. Calloway left the cockpit and retrieved his spear gun. He came back into the cockpit and threatened everyone to sit back down in their seats. Despite loud ringing in his ear and being dazed, Peterson grabbed the gun by the spear between the barbs and the barrel. A lengthy struggle ensued, while Tucker, also an ex-Navy pilot, performed extreme aerial maneuvers with the aircraft. He pulled the plane into a sudden 15-degree climb, throwing Sanders, Peterson and Calloway out of the cockpit and into the galley. To try to throw Calloway off balance, Tucker then turned the plane into a left roll, almost on its side. This rolled the combatants along the smoke curtain onto the left side of the galley.
Eventually, Tucker had rolled the plane almost upside down at 140 degrees, while attempting to maintain a visual reference of the environment around him through the windows. Peterson, Sanders and Calloway were then pinned to the ceiling of the plane. Calloway managed to reach his hammer hand free and hit Sanders in the head again. Just then, Tucker put the plane into a steep dive. This pushed the combatants back to the seat curtain, but the wings and elevators started to flutter. At this point Tucker could hear the wind rushing against the cockpit windows. At 460 knots (850 km/h; 530 mph), the plane's elevators fluttered so much that the control surfaces became unresponsive due to the disrupted airflow. This tested the aircraft's safety limits. Tucker realized this was because the throttles were at full power. Releasing his only usable hand to pull back the throttles to idle, he managed to pull the plane out of the dive while it slowed down.
Calloway managed to hit Sanders again while the struggle continued. Sanders was losing strength and Peterson was heavily bleeding from a ruptured artery. In spite of his diminishing strength, Sanders managed to grab the hammer out of Calloway's hand and attacked him with it. When the plane was completely level, Tucker reported to Memphis Center, informed them about the attack and requested a vector back to Memphis. He requested an ambulance and "armed intervention", meaning he wanted SWAT to storm the plane.
The flight crew eventually succeeded in restraining Calloway, although only after moments of inverted and near-transonic flight beyond the designed capabilities of a DC-10. Sanders took control and Tucker, who had by then lost use of the right side of his body, went back to assist Peterson in restraining Calloway. Sanders communicated with air traffic control, preparing for an emergency landing back at Memphis International Airport. Meanwhile, after screaming that he could not breathe, Calloway started fighting with the crew again.
Heavily loaded with fuel and cargo, the plane was approaching too fast and too high to land on the scheduled runway 9. A fully loaded airliner could break up upon landing at these conditions. Sanders requested by radio to land on the longer runway 36L. Ignoring warning messages from the onboard computer and using a series of sharp turns that tested the DC-10's safety limits, Sanders landed the jet safely on the runway at 16,000 kilograms (18 short tons) over its maximum designed landing weight. By that time, Calloway was once again restrained. Emergency personnel and police gained access to the plane via escape slide and ladder. Inside, they found the interior of the galley and cockpit covered in blood. Calloway was then arrested and taken off the plane.
The crew of Flight 705 sustained serious injuries. The left side of Tucker's skull was severely fractured, causing motor control problems in his right arm and right leg. Calloway had also dislocated Tucker's jaw, attempted to gouge out one of his eyes and stabbed his right arm. Sanders suffered several deep gashes in his head and doctors had to sew his right ear back in place. Flight engineer Peterson's skull was fractured and his temporal artery severed. The aircraft itself incurred damages in the amount of $800,000.
Calloway pleaded temporary insanity but was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences (federal sentences are not subject to parole) on August 15, 1995, for attempted murder and attempted air piracy. Calloway, Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate #14601-076, is imprisoned in the medium-security United States Penitentiary, Lompoc, in Santa Barbara County, California, as of September 2019.
On May 26, 1994, the Air Line Pilots Association awarded Dave Sanders, James Tucker, and Andrew Peterson the Gold Medal Award for heroism, the highest award a civilian pilot can receive. In 2004, ten years after the incident and due to the extent and severity of their injuries, none of the crew had been recertified as medically fit to fly commercially. However, James Tucker returned to recreational flying in his Luscombe 8A by 2002.
As of August 2019, the McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 aircraft involved, N306FE, remains in service as an upgraded MD-10 without the flight engineer position, although FedEx is in the process of phasing out their MD-10 aircraft in favor of the Boeing 767-300F. The plane first flew on December 6, 1985, and was delivered to FedEx on January 24, 1986.
The attempted hijacking of Flight 705 was featured in "Fight for Your Life", a season 3 (2005) episode of the Canadian TV series Mayday (called Air Emergency and Air Disasters in the U.S., Air Crash Investigation in the UK, and Mayday, Catástrofes Aéreas in Latin America), which included interviews with the flight crew. The dramatization was broadcast with the title "Suicide Attack" in the United Kingdom, Australia, and Asia.
The book Hijacked: The True Story of the Heroes of Flight 705, written by Dave Hirschman, was published in 1997.