Three Cheeseburgers and a Rental Car

26 Jul 19 2 Comments

Aircraft hijacks are pretty rare since airport security started checking bags before allowing them on the flight. However, I was intrigued by the story of Glenn Kurt Tripp who appeared to attempt a DB Cooper style hijack in 1980 and then again in 1983, at the end of which he was shot and killed by FBI agents.

The first attempt was Northwest flight 608, a 727 flying from Seattle to Portland. It is clear that Glenn Tripp was mirroring the famous Cooper hijack: he chose the same airline, the same aircraft, almost the same route (Seattle to Portland instead of Portland to Seattle) and even wore the same mirrored sunglasses that Dan Cooper was shown as wearing in his identity sketch.

The 17-year-old carried a briefcase, just as Cooper did, and declared that it contained a bomb. He asked for $100,000 and two parachutes while the 727 was taxiing to the runway. The aircraft remained on the ground while the FBI sent out negotiators. The cabin crew member spoke to him at length, hearing about how how bad his life had been and that nothing had ever gone right for him. During this, she brought him a drink into which she had crumbled three valiums.

The stand-off lasted for ten hours during which Tripp released the 52 passengers and lowered his demands. Instead of $100,000 in cash and two parachutes, he declared that he would settle for three cheeseburgers and a rental car which he wanted the two pilots to use to drive him out of the airport.

The FBI negotiator warned him that the cheeseburgers would take some time, at which point the young man agreed that he’d come out of the aircraft when the rental car arrived, as long as they would give him a head start. As he disembarked the 727, three FBI agents shoved him, grabbing the briefcase and placing him under arrest. They soon confirmed that there was no bomb and the boy was taken under arrest. He was convicted of first-degree kidnapping and extortion and sentenced to twenty years on probation. During his trial, he was described as developmentally disabled with a mental age between 9 and 12. He was placed in the Victoria Village Home for the Developmentally Disabled in Washington State.

Tripp struggled to find work and the Judge refused to allow him to return to California, where he grew up as one of 13 children in Escondido. He reported to his parole officer that someone was trying to kill him which turned out to be a false report. Then he left the court-approved home to live with an older woman who had been an employee at the home. The judge issued an order to prohibit Tripp from marrying the woman, saying he was too easily influenced by older people.

On the 20th of January 1983, Tripp tried again. He again boarded a Northwest flight in Seattle bound for Portland. As they took off, he declared, “Now we are going to Afghanistan.” He then showed a cabin crew member the shoe box which he had brought on board with him and informed her that there was a bomb inside.

This time, he did not ask for money or a get-away car, but instead demanded that the aircraft divert to Afghanistan where, he said, the United States had failed to support “his people” against the Soviet Union. He claimed that he had been in prison for the last ten years and had been unable to see his wife and child there during this time — it’s worth noting that he was only twenty at the time and had grown up in a large family in Escondido, California.

He agreed for the 727 to land at Portland for refuelling. After over two hours of negotiating, he was convinced to release half of the 41 passengers on board and downgraded his demand from Afghanistan to San Diego, California.

News Broadcast 21 Jan 1983

As the passengers slid down the emergency exit chute, two FBI agents were lifted on the shoulders of their colleagues so that they could climb into the aircraft through the cockpit windows. The captain released the security door and one of the agents, seeing Tripp approaching, shouted “Freeze!”. Tripp made a motion as if to throw the shoebox at at the agent. The agent fired upon him in self-defence, believing that the lives of the passengers and crew were at risk of the explosive detonated. The single shot killed Tripp instantly.

It was only afterwards that it became clear that it was the same hijacker as in 1980 and that he was known to be developmentally disabled. There was no bomb; the shoe box was filled with crumpled paper.

There seem to be no photographs or really much more information at all about this case, although I did find this intriguing collection of news broadcasts on the subject.

The person who uploaded the video found it on a Betamax tape labeled “International Hostage Situations” at a charity shop in 2003.

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