Frontier Airlines Flight 91

Frontier Airlines Flight 91 was a regularly scheduled passenger flight from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Phoenix, Arizona. On April 13, 1972, Ricardo Chavez Ortiz hijacked the plane with an unloaded gun, saying that he had no intentions to hurt anyone, only demanding that the crew fly past Phoenix and to land in Los Angeles.[1] He released all the passengers and had reporters come into the plane so that he could give a speech to the radio before surrendering.[2][3] The incident was the first hijacking of a Frontier Airlines plane in the company's history.[4]

Frontier Airlines Flight 91
Frontier Airlines Flight 91 sitting on the runway
DateApril 13, 1972 (1972-04-13)
Aircraft typeBoeing 737
OperatorFrontier Airlines
Flight originAlbuquerque International Airport
DestinationPhoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Survivors31 (all)

Details Edit

Ricardo Chavez Ortiz was a Mexican immigrant to the United States with four children, living in East Lost Angeles. In 1972, he left his family to work in Albuquerque as a restaurant worker, but after 36 hours, made a decision to return to Mexico and become a cop in Tijuana, purchasing a ticket to Phoenix and an unloaded .22-caliber pistol with his remaining money.[3] After landing in Phoenix, he would take a bus to Tijuana, sell the gun, then be in the police force before sending the money to his son in East Los Angeles.[1]

The plane departed from Albuquerque International Sunport on April 13, 1972, and made its way to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. During the flight, Ortiz decided to forgo the plan and told flight attendant Jacquelyn Louise Jones that he wanted to speak to the pilot, drawing his pistol to lead him to the cockpit.[5] After entering the cockpit, he told the crew that he had no interest in ransom and demanded that the crew fly past Phoenix and land in Los Angeles International Airport to refuel, then to head to Mexico.[6] He also told them that he would release all the passengers safely if reporters got on the plane and let him make a statement to the media, before he would surrender his weapon.[1] Captain Willy R. Hurt later said that the crew "established a satisfactory relationship with the hijacker" and agreed to do everything that he wanted; he also stated that he was "very surprised" at Ortiz's requests.[4]

After the plane landed, he did what he said he would, releasing all the passengers in the late afternoon as journalists and audio engineers entered the plane. He gave a 34-minute speech wearing a pilot's hat before surrendering his weapon to the pilot, apologizing for causing an inconvenience to the crew and passengers.[1][7] He later said that he hijacked the plane to "save America and the whole world."[8][9]

Aftermath Edit

Ortiz talking with reporters in May 1972

After Ortiz was arrested, he faced a possible term of life imprisonment for the hijacking, with his trial beginning on July 18, 1972.[2] Public defender Nicholas Allis argued that Ortiz was a "solid citizen" who had lived in Los Angeles for the last 14 years and had been employed "until the last three or four days."[5] A defense psychiatrist testified that Ortiz was mentally ill, and that his motives were "delusional."[10]

He became a hero of the Chicano Movement, which was just emerging. Some Mexican-Americans marched in support of Ortiz, with some contributing to his $35,000 bail, some of them pledging to put up their homes.[11][12] Despite his popularity with Mexican-Americans, he was sentenced to life imprisonment, which was later reduced down to 20 years after an appeal.[1][13]

References Edit

  1. ^ a b c d e Koerner, Brendan I. (June 20, 2013). "Ricardo Chavez Ortiz, the mild-mannered hijacker who became a hero of the Chicano movement". Slate.
  2. ^ a b "RICARDO CHAVEZ ORTIZ". The Pentagon Paper. No. 1. Pentagon Papers Peace Project. July 1972. p. 3.
  3. ^ a b "Hijacker Tells Story, Gives Up". San Bernardino Sun. April 14, 1972.
  4. ^ a b "HIJACKED CREW PERFORMANCE WAS OUTSTANDING" (PDF). Frontier News. July 2022.
  5. ^ a b Crawford, James (April 14, 1972). "Hijacker demands surprise pilot of Frontier airline" (PDF). Rocky Mountain News.
  6. ^ "Hijacked Plane Given Orders: Fly To Mexico". The Desert Sun. April 13, 1972.
  7. ^ "Skyjacker Asks For TV Time". The Press Democrat. April 13, 1972.
  8. ^ Del Olmo, Frank (July 20, 1972). "Hijacked Jet to Save America and World, Chavez-Ortiz Says: Mexican National Thought Act Was Right and Justified; He Blames Racial Discrimination, War and Pollution". Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ "'Doing World Favor'". The Desert Sun. July 20, 1972.
  10. ^ Del Olmo, Frank (July 21, 1972). "Plane Hijacker Was Mentally Ill, Trial Told: Chavez-Ortiz' Motives Called 'Delusional' by Defense Psychiatrist". Los Angeles Times.
  11. ^ Del Olmo, Frank (April 17, 1972). "500 Mexican-Americans March to Show Support for Hijacker: Leaders Say Protest Does Not Condone Air Piracy; Demonstrators Ask Clemency, Agree With Grievances". Los Angeles Times.
  12. ^ "Hijack suspect freed on bail". The Bulletin. April 20, 1972.
  13. ^ "Judge sentences hijacker to life term in prison". The Bulletin. July 25, 1972.