Haco Hijacked, or 50 years ago this month Little Rock’s Mayor made an unscheduled trip to Havana

Less than a week after being selected Little Rock’s 58th mayor, Haco Boyd made an unscheduled stop in Cuba when the Eastern Airlines Boeing on which he was flying was hijacked.

The seventy passengers, including 44 from Arkansas, were hijacked to Cuba on January 9 on a flight that was originally scheduled to go from Miami to Nassau for an insurance convention.

Shortly after takeoff, a passenger, who described himself as a student at Purdue University, sat next to a flight attendant, told her the plane was going to Cuba, and showed her a knife.

After landing in Cuba, the plane, its crew, and two passengers (Mr. and Mrs. Keith Thrash of Little Rock) were allowed to return to Miami. The Thrashes were allowed to stay on the plane due to illness.  Several hours later, another plane picked up the remaining passengers and returned them to Miami.

Eastern Airlines then flew the passengers on to Nassau without further incident. Mayor Boyd’s wife was flying with him on the plane.

Once the media found out that Little Rock’s mayor was on the plane, he became of great interest to reporters.  “They treated us real well in Havana.” Boyd told the press. “They gave us the blue plate special treatment.” Boyd said everything was “just fine, no sweat, it’s just one of those things.” He went on to describe the hijacker (who stayed in Cuba) as “a rather decent looking person, except for his nose and his mouth, which were a little weak.

Mayor Boyd was back at City Hall to preside over the January 20, 1969, City Council meeting. It appears that the reminder of his airline flights went to their appropriate destinations.  During World War II, he had been a decorated pilot for the Army Air Corps.

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