(A timely and significant article about hijackings as we
watch and wait for developments with Luis Posada Carilles.
(The authorities in Cuba returned this pilot, and afterwards
the plane itself, after trading it for a boat which had been
hijacked by Cuban exiles. Let's hope in time we'll get some
of the details on the outcome of the second hijacking, whose
resolution isn't described in detail as is the first.)
Capt. William Buchanan Sr., was hijacked twice
Airplane pilot flew to Cuba in 1961, 1971
Broward Community College
By Noreen Marcus
March 30, 2005
Capt. William E. Buchanan Sr., a lifelong pilot who had the
distinction of being hijacked twice to Cuba, died March 18.
He was 83 and lived in Pompano Beach.
His experiences with hijackers, in 1961 and 1971, show what
a difference a decade makes. The first time, when a Miami
Beach waiter made Capt. Buchanan detour his Tampa-bound
turboprop to Havana, the hijacking sparked an international
The Buchanan family back in South Miami, along with the
rest of the world, waited anxiously to see if the new
Communist leader Fidel Castro would return the Eastern Air
Lines crew of five and 32 passengers -- plus the Electra,
valued at $3.5 million. Castro put the people on a Pan Am
flight to Miami the next day, but held on to the plane
until it could be traded for a $50,000 patrol boat that
Cuban refugees had spirited to Key West.
It was the second hijacking of a U.S. commercial plane to
Many hijackings and 10 years later, when an ex-convict with
leftist ideas decided a Miami-bound Boeing 727 out of
Detroit should go to Cuba instead, Capt. Buchanan's
daughter, Elaine Patsel, then living in San Antonio, Texas,
heard the news on the radio. She tracked down her mother,
who knew but still kept an appointment with her
"It's just a hijacking," former flight attendant Shirley
Buchanan said, according to Patsel.
As for her father, who was back home in hours, Patsel said,
"He was a lot calmer the second time around, that's for
Capt. Buchanan was born on May 3, 1921, in Montgomery,
W.Va. By the time he was 13, he was flying short hops with
an aviator uncle. His schooling at Hampden-Sydney College
in Virginia was interrupted by World War II, but not his
flying. Stationed in Pecos, Texas, he trained pilots for
the Army Air Corps.
In 1946, he took a job with Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker's
Eastern Air Lines and kept it for 35 years. In 1948, he
married his second wife, Shirley, whom he had met when she
subbed for a flight attendant on one of his flights. They
were married 52 years when she died in 2000.
The couple had four children in addition to the two from
Capt. Buchanan's previous marriage. They spent four years
in Alexandria, Va., before settling in Fort Lauderdale in
the late 1960s.
"He was my hero," said daughter Sarah Maltby of Margate.
"He was always there when you needed him. He was the kind
of dad who rolled with the tide."
When a debilitating virus left her helpless at 20, Maltby
said, her parents devoted two years of their lives to her
rehabilitation. Her father used a chart to retrain her in
"One day he said to me, `Young lady, if you choose at the
age of 21 to continue to use a walker, you will. But I
believe you can put the walker aside and walk to me without
falling.'" And she did.
Capt. Buchanan had the same paternal feelings for his
passengers. The night he spent in Havana after his plane
was hijacked, Patsel said, "he felt like he couldn't sleep.
... He was worried about the passengers."
And the night he finally returned home to South Miami, he
uncharacteristically fell asleep in the den holding a
drink. "He was just exhausted," Patsel recalled. "Making
sure everybody got out safely, that was his concern."
Flying remained his passion to the end of his life,
according to Maltby, who took care of her father after her
mother died. Nearing death from kidney failure, he
predicted the day he died there would be a clear sky for
his final flight.
"The day he died there wasn't a cloud in the sky," she
In addition to Maltby and Patsel, of Roanoke, Va., Capt.
Buchanan is survived by daughters Patricia Masi, of Haddon
Heights, N.J., and Kathleen Mooney, of Fort Lauderdale; a
son, William E. Buchanan Jr., of Daytona Beach; 10
grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
There will be no services.
Noreen Marcus can be reached at nmarcus@...
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