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The incredible story of the hijacking of a Peruvian plane that made its pilot a hero 50 years ago

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It was the first days of April 1972, when an incredible police story surprised all Peruvians through the pages of El Comercio. That time, a pilot foiled the hijacking of a Faucett company plane when they were going from Piura to Chiclayo.

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The attack occurred five minutes into the flight. The perpetrator of the attack was a 19-year-old who had two nationalities. After struggling for several seconds, the assailant was able to be reduced and handed over to the Peruvian Investigative Police (PIP) as soon as they landed at his destination.

attempted kidnapping

It was 7:40 p.m. on April 8, 1972, when a Boeing 727 belonging to the National Aviation Company Faucett took off with 77 people from the Piura airport in the direction of Chiclayo. After a few minutes of flight, a young man with straight hair, short stature, aquiline nose, wearing a beige jacket and light pants, got up from his seat and violently entered the control cabin of the ship. No one imagined what he would do.

Already in the compartment, he threatened the plane’s flight engineer, Pedro Espinoza, with a pistol and a bottle of gasoline. “Take me directly to Lima and there I will tell you where we are going next. If you don’t obey, I will kill the crew and blow up the ship.”Said the criminal furious. Then he asked the flight captain, Erich Klein, and his co-pilot, Ivo Kelez, to hand over their weapons. Both denied making trips with these fire apparatus.

On the plane, 77 people were on board.  (Photo: GEC Historical Archive)
On the plane, 77 people were on board. (Photo: GEC Historical Archive)

The response infuriated the hijacker, who hit the co-pilot in the face and head with the revolver and the fuel tank. This caused the flight captain to react with a blow to the chin that threw the offender to the ground. At that moment, he broke the bottle of gasoline and it began to spread throughout the cabin. After a few minutes of struggle and anguish, the pilots managed to control the young man.

After seeing what happened, the plane’s passengers entered that room armed with fire extinguishers in their hands and hit the malefactor several times. Klein had to intervene so they wouldn’t kill him. Later, he tied the kidnapper to a seat until they reached Chiclayo. Already in the northern city, the offender was handed over to the police. It was 15 minutes of terror. This was the second time a Faucett plane had been in a similar situation.

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ongoing investigations

That night, the Peruvian Investigative Police (PIP) identified the frustrated kidnapper as Second Bustamante Vallejos, 19 years old. The criminal had another Ecuadorian identity with the name of Juan Vergara Espinoza. According to the agents, the criminal was a native of Sechura and lived on Mariscal Castilla street. His address belonged to a beauty salon in that city.

Moments in which the PIP arrives in Lima with Segundo Bustamante Vallejos, 19 years old.  (Photo: GEC Historical Archive)
Moments in which the PIP arrives in Lima with Segundo Bustamante Vallejos, 19 years old. (Photo: GEC Historical Archive)

Minutes later, Bustamante was transferred to the Las Mercedes Hospital under the strong protection of the Civil Guard (GC) and the PIP. Once in the hospital, he was treated by Dr. Núñez Miranda. The doctor revealed that the young man had injuries to his upper lip and left cheekbone. He also explained that he did not believe that he had mental problems; although, frequently, he mentioned incoherent phrases.

The next day, around 8:30 p.m. on the night of April 9, 1972, Bustamante left the hospital aboard an ambulance and in the company of several security agents. In that vehicle he was transferred to the Chiclayo airport, from where he traveled to Lima guarded by two officers. At 11:15 p.m., the plane landed at Jorge Chávez International Airport. Already on Lima soil, the young criminal was transferred in a police car to the PIP headquarters.

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Witness testifies for El Comercio

hours before the transfer, Trade managed to interview Pedro Espinoza, flight engineer of the Boeing 727. In the conversation, he confirmed that Bustamante entered the pilot’s compartment five minutes into the flight. Seconds before, he had violently pushed a cabin crew. Therefore, the passengers realized that they were in the middle of a hijacking.

Pedro Espinoza during the interview with El Comercio.  (Photo: GEC Historical Archive)
Pedro Espinoza during the interview with El Comercio. (Photo: GEC Historical Archive)

This is how the young man pointed a gun at his head and ordered him to go directly to Lima. He also demanded that she turn on the light in the cabin, an action that would cost Espinoza dearly: “I made the gesture of turning on, to which he reacted by hitting me strongly with the revolver on the left jaw”. It is at that moment that Klein and Kelez intervened, who told the offender that they would obey his instructions if he calmed down.

“The assailant changed the position of the weapon and pointed me in the back of the neck, he was totally out of his mind. I thought the worst would happen and I entrusted myself to Saint Martin de Porres, to whom the whole family is devoted”said the engineer. After verifying that they had no weapons, Bustamante hit Kelez with the fuel bottle. He then asked Klein to get up so he could check it out. The ship’s pilot took advantage of that moment to grab his hand where he held the gun and knee him.

Seconds later, Espinoza grabbed his hand where the broken bottle was held and punched him in the face. This caused Bustamante to threaten to shoot: “I told him we would all fly. Klien managed to disarm it, and I opened the cabin door, signaling to the Gibson purser to pass me a seat belt to tie it down. The passengers watched the end of the drama, we were flying at 23 thousand feet..

Espinoza was a flight engineer on the hijacked Boeing 727.  (Photo: GEC Historical Archive)
Espinoza was a flight engineer on the hijacked Boeing 727. (Photo: GEC Historical Archive)

words of a hero

On Monday, April 10, 1972, Erich Klein gave a press conference at the airline’s new building. In the place, he was accompanied by senior leaders of the aeronautical company and the general director of the PIP. There he said that the first thing he did when he saw the young kidnapper with the gun was try to calm him down so he could disarm him.

Klein explained that he had to face the assailant “with bare fists and knees” because his gun was not loaded: “The aircraft was not in danger at any time. The command remained in the hands of the co-pilot who is also a pilot”. Later, he clarified what Bustamante wanted: “At no time did the boy tell me to go to Cuba. He insisted on going directly to Lima, without touching Chiclayo, which was the next stop”said the aviator.

It should be noted that the pilot had been with the company for more than 20 years and had more than 27,500 flight hours. Besides, it wasn’t the first time he had been through a similar situation. In March 1969, he received death threats when he was traveling from Arequipa. That time the kidnapper made him take him to Cuba. His co-pilot in that incident was also Kelez.

The young criminal arrived in our capital in the midst of a strong police guard.  (Photo: GEC Historical Archive)
The young criminal arrived in our capital in the midst of a strong police guard. (Photo: GEC Historical Archive)

After his statements, the general director of the PIP said that the young assailant was being interrogated in a room where he had little communication. Besides, he was checking his background. He also clarified that it was too early to say that he had mental problems. “We cannot anticipate that he is crazy, Bustamante Vallejos has been brought to Lima and extensive investigations have been initiated to determine who he is and what goals he was pursuing”said the police officer.

In this way, the authorities took charge of the case. As the weeks went by, no more information was known about this fact. A frustrated aerial hijacking that ended up turning the pilot of the Peruvian plane into a hero 50 years ago.


In our virtual store we have a selection of the best illustrations, photos and historical pages of El Comercio that you can easily request through a simple form located at the following address: https://www.tiendaelcomercio.com/.

Our Historical Archive presents its virtual store
Our Historical Archive presents its virtual store


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