Aircraft hijacking (also known as skyjacking and aircraft piracy) is the unlawful seizure of an aircraft by force, either by an individual or a group. In most cases the pilot is forced to fly according to the orders of the hijackers.

Unlike the hijacking of land vehicles or ships, skyjacking is usually not perpetrated in order to rob the cargo. Most aircraft hijackings are committed to use the passengers as hostages in an effort to obtain transportation to a given location. Hijackings for hostages have usually followed a pattern of negotiations between the hijackers and the authorities, followed by some form of settlement - but does not always meet with the hijackers' original demands. If the hijackers show no sign of surrendering, armed forces would storm the aircraft to rescue the hostages.

Airline hijacking in The Man With the Iron Heart[]

Airline hijacking was a form of terrorism devised by Reinhard Heydrich of the German Freedom Front and implemented by his successor, Joachim Peiper. Groups of four GFF agents seized three planes in 1947--two belonging to the United States and one belonging to the Soviet Union.

The American planes were flown to Madrid, Spain and Lisbon, Portugal, respectively, where they were held until the GFF agents in American custody were released. The American government did not comply, and so the GFF set fire to the planes and surrendered. The Soviet plane was held in Prague; the Soviet NKVD ordered the plane stormed with Red Army soldiers. A howitzer blew the nose open and infantry charged in the opening, and the terrorists were killed with "acceptable" loss of life to the hostages and soldiers.

In the aftermath of the initial hijackings, Peiper was very pleased with the results in Western Europe. The Americans and their allies were suddenly ramping up all manner of security procedures amid a wave of fear and paranoia, leaving the GFF fully possessing the initiative. Results from the East were considerably less promising. Peiper decided it was pointless to continue this form of terror tactic against the USSR, whose response was consistently sloppy and brutal, but also effective: kill the hijackers immediately, regardless of the cost to hostages or Soviet military personnel.