THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

One heck of an in-air gunfight on a civilian jet

March 30, 2009
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RE: ADRIAN Walker's column "Friends in high places" (March 20, Page B1) concerning the cockpit in-flight gunfight on Eastern Air Lines shuttle Flight 1320 destined to land at Boston Logan Airport on March 17, 1970. You have missed the most extraordinary part of the saga, the part that makes the flight unique in civil aviation history.

Captain Robert Wilbur Jr., 35, a former Air Force pilot who had only been promoted to captain six months prior, was shot in his arm by the suicidal hijacker. And yet with a .38 slug in his arm and bleeding profusely, he flew his aircraft safely to a landing while talking to the tower, telling them his copilot was shot (but not himself) and needed an ambulance. His copilot, First Officer James Hartley, 31, was mortally shot without warning by John J. Divivo and he collapsed. Divivo then turned the gun on the captain, wounding him when suddenly Hartley arose, ripped the gun from Divivo's hand, and shot him three times before relapsing into unconsciousness. Although wounded and slumped between the seats, Divivo arose and began clawing at Captain Wilbur, attempting to force a crash. That's why Wilbur hit him over the head with the gun he had retrieved from where it had fallen on the center console.

Folks, that was one hell of a piece of flying. And I can assure you, civil airline pilots do not train for such an experience.

J.P. TRISTANI
Ramsey, N.J.
The writer is a retired Eastern Air Lines captain.

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