Facts of the hijacking of flight 601 in Colombia

What really happened in the hijacking of Flight 601 in Colombia, which comes to light again after a series on Netflix.

On April 10, a six-episode miniseries based on one of the most dramatic events in the history of Colombian aviation was released on Netflix Hijacking Flight 601.

The story takes us to Colombia’s past, in an episode that recreates certain events, the hijacking of flight 601, which even today, continues to generate controversy.

Between 1967 and 1973, in the golden age of air piracy, about 90 airplanes were hijacked in Latin America.

Of those hijackings, 30 occurred in Colombia, according to the compilation of Italian journalist Massimo Di Ricco in his 2020 book “The Condemned of the Air”, on which the Netflix series is inspired.

But the reality of the hijacking of flight 601, although it is true in the Netflix story shows us the main thread, everything is not so real.

Facts of the hijacking of flight 601 in Colombia

On May 30, 1973, two individuals hijacked the Lockheed Electra HK-1274 aircraft of the defunct Colombian airline Sociedad Aeronáutica de Medellín, according to Di Ricco and the media El Espectador and El Tiempo that covered the events.

The aircraft took off from Pereira, Colombia, with 84 people on board, on a route connecting Medellín with Cali and Pereira.

While crossing the Andes, the individuals – identified as Eusebio Borja and Francisco Solano López – took control of the plane claiming to be members of the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas.

But in reality, the perpetrators of the hijacking of flight 601 were two soccer players of Paraguayan origin with financial difficulties.

At first, the passengers thought it was a prank.


“We thought it was that way, to annoy,” recalled one of them, cyclist Luis Alfonso Reátegui – who died in 2022 – in an interview with National Public Radio’s (NPR) Radio Ambulante podcast in 2021.

The armed and hooded men “fired and fired a shot at the floor and told us to stay still, that this was a kidnapping,” said Reátegui.

The realities of a dramatic hijacking in Colombia

The reality of the hijacking of flight 601 in Colombia began a dramatic journey that would last 60 hours through 24,000 km, 12 landings and 12 take-offs.

At the time, the hijacking of Flight 601 would be considered one of the longest hijackings in world aeronautics and the longest in Latin America, according to the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.

The plane’s captain, Jaime Lucena, was ordered to head for the Caribbean island of Aruba, according to El Tiempo and Radio Ambulante.

Lucerna communicated from the air that they were hijacked and needed fuel, so they made the first stopover in Medellín, details “Los condenados del aire”.

The hijackers had two demands: US$ 200,000 and the release of political prisoners in Colombia.

If their demands were not met, they warned that they would blow up the plane with the passengers on board, reported El Espectador in its coverage at the time.

In Aruba it got out of control

Shortly before the plane arrived in Aruba, negotiations with Borja and Solano got complicated. SAM’s negotiating lawyer, Ignacio Mustafa, offered only $20,000, Di Ricco told Radio Ambulante.

The hijackers let about 40 passengers off in Aruba for lack of food and water.


Hours later, while waiting for answers to their demands, the Colombian government announced that it would not negotiate and that discussions were left to the airline, reported El Colombiano newspaper in its coverage.

Angered by the response, the air pirates forced the pilot to take off for Lima, Peru, but a technical problem forced them to return to Aruba.

From the Caribbean island, in the midst of the hijacking of Flight 601, a group of passengers decided to escape by opening the emergency door and jumping onto the runway, according to El Espectador’s archive.

With no agreement in negotiations, the Lockheed Electra took off again. It circled Panama, Costa Rica and El Salvador, but without permission to land had to return once more to Aruba, according to El Tiempo.

There, authorities asked the hijackers to allow them to replace the crew and, in return, the airline would send them a briefcase containing $50,000. The men agreed and released another group of passengers.

The hijackers’ escape

After some 38 hours of the hijacking of Flight 601, the plane took off first to Guayaquil, Ecuador, and then to Lima, where 14 of the 26 remaining passengers were released, according to Radio Ambulante’s account.

The aircraft took off again, this time bound for Mendoza, Argentina.

The air pirates let the remaining passengers leave, abandoning the ransom negotiations.

After 55 hours of hijacking, the SAM plane took off without passengers bound for Buenos Aires, Di Ricco recalled.

In their coverage of the events, El Tiempo and El Espectador reported that on May 2, 1973, the hijacking came to an end with the escape of the two hijackers, who managed to collect a ransom of US$ 50,000 in cash.

According to El Espectador, the escape occurred at the airport in Argentina, during a brief stopover to refuel.

The version is similar to Di Ricco’s account for Radio Ambulante, in which he stated that the hijackers had escaped during one of the brief landings on the border between Argentina and Paraguay.

After the hijacking of flight 601 from Colombia, Francisco Solano López was arrested and extradited to Colombia, where he was imprisoned for five years, while Eusebio Borja was never captured and was never heard from again, according to El Espectador and Radio Ambulante.

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