According to some “official” sources the first air hijacking attempt on American soil happened on July 31, 1961 when pipeline worker Bruce Britt, Sr., boarded and attempted to commandeer a Pacific Airlines flight at the Chico Municipal Airport, in Chico, California, intending to return to his home in Smackover, Arkansas. The hijacking attempt failed, but Britt did shoot two airline employees.
But this reporter has uncovered an even earlier attempt at an airline hijacking..and it took place in Ohio and ended with tragic results. The year was 1954, 62 years ago this week on July the 6th when a large framed 15-year-old boy, wearing a leather coast denim jeans boarded an American Airlines plane at Cleveland Hopkins airport, waving a pistol and demanded that the pilot fly the plane to Mexico. The pilot, however, reached into high flight bag and withdrew a .38 caliber handgun and shot the young teen twice, once in the hip and once in the chest. He died about an hour later at the hospital. There were 53 passengers on board the DC-6, and they were largely unaware of what had happened until the ambulance took the boy’s body out on a stretcher. That young man was identified as Ray Kuchenmeister, a 280 pound, six-foot tall teen who his mother said was bitter because he was too big to be considered a boy and too young to be considered a man. His 12-year-old brother, Donald, who was outside the plane when the shooting happened said he and his brother had run away from their run down old home in suburban Parma and just wanted to go out West and “get work as cowboys”. The pilot, Captain William Bonnell said later, “What was I supposed to do? I had a maniac on the plane with a gun.” The gun that the young man brandished however was later revealed to be broken and empty. The boy’s mother said it was an old broken gun that been around the house for years and she thought it had been thrown out.