Fedex Flight 705

FedEx Express Flight 705
DC-10-30F similar to N306FE.
Hijacking summary
Date April 7, 1994 (1994-04-07)
Summary Attempted suicide hijacking
Site Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Passengers 1 (hijacker)
Crew 3
Injuries (non-fatal) 4
Fatalities 0
Survivors 4 (all)
Aircraft type McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30F
Operator FedEx
Registration N306FE
Flight origin Memphis International Airport
Memphis, Tennessee
Destination San Jose International Airport
San Jose, California

On April 7, 1994, Federal Express Flight 705, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 cargo jet carrying electronics across the United States from Memphis, Tennessee to San Jose, California, experienced an attempted hijacking for the purpose of a suicide attack.

Auburn Calloway, a Federal Express employee facing possible dismissal for lying about his previous flying experience, boarded the scheduled flight as a deadheading passenger with a guitar case carrying several hammers and a speargun. He intended to disable the aircraft's cockpit voice recorder before take-off and, once airborne, kill the crew using the blunt force of the hammers so their injuries would appear consistent with an accident rather than a hijacking. The speargun would be a last resort. He would then crash the aircraft while just appearing to be an employee killed in an accident. This would make his family eligible for a $2.5 million life insurance policy paid by Federal Express.[1]

Calloway's plan was unsuccessful. Despite severe injuries, the crew was able to fight back, subdue Calloway and land the aircraft safely. An attempt at a mental health defense was unsuccessful and Calloway was subsequently convicted of multiple charges including attempted murder, attempted air piracy and interference with flight crew operations. He received two consecutive life sentences. Calloway's appeal was successful in having his conviction for interference ruled as a lesser included offense of attempted air piracy.[2] The crew members were left with permanent, disabling injuries and have not flown professionally since.

Flight details

Initially, Calloway was the flight engineer on this flight, but he and his crew exceeded the maximum flying hours by one minute the previous day, so the new three-man flight crew consisted of 49-year-old Captain David Sanders, 42-year-old First Officer James Tucker, and 39-year-old Flight Engineer Andrew Peterson. At the time of the incident, First Officer James Tucker held the position of Captain at Federal Express on the DC-10 and was also a check airman on the type. Aboard Flight 705, Tucker assumed the role of first officer. FedEx Flight 705 was scheduled to fly to San Jose, California with electronic equipment destined for Silicon Valley.


The then 42-year-old Federal Express Flight Engineer Auburn Calloway, an alumnus of Stanford University and a former military pilot and martial arts expert, faced termination of employment over irregularities in the reporting of flight hours.[2] In order to disguise the hijacking as an accident so his family would benefit from his $2.5 million life insurance policy, Calloway intended to murder the flight crew using blunt force. To accomplish this, he brought aboard two claw hammers, two sledge hammers and a speargun concealed inside a guitar case.[2] It is unclear how Calloway planned to crash the plane. Just before the flight, Calloway had transferred over $54,000 in securities and cashiers checks to his ex-wife.[2] He also carried a note aboard, written to her and "describing the author's apparent despair".[2]


As part of his plan to disguise the intended attack as an accident, Calloway attempted to disable the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) by tripping its circuit breaker. During standard pre-flight checks, Peterson noticed the tripped breaker and reset it before take-off so the CVR was reactivated.[3] About twenty minutes after takeoff, as the flight crew carried on a casual conversation, Calloway entered the flight deck and commenced his attack. Every member of the crew took multiple hammer blows which fractured both Peterson's and Tucker's skulls, severing the former's temporal artery.[2] A lengthy struggle ensued with the flight engineer and captain as Tucker, also an ex-Navy pilot, performed extreme aerial maneuvers with the aircraft, at times flying upside down, with the intent to keep the hijacker off-balance.[1]

The flight crew eventually succeeded in restraining Calloway, though only after moments of inverted and near-transonic flight beyond the designed capabilities of a DC-10. Sanders took control and Tucker, who had by then lost use of the right side of his body, went back to assist Peterson in restraining Calloway. Sanders communicated with air traffic control, prepared for an emergency landing back at Memphis International Airport. Meanwhile, after screaming that he could not breathe, Calloway started fighting with the crew again.

Heavily loaded with fuel and cargo, the plane was approaching too fast and too high to land on the scheduled runway 9. Sanders requested by radio to land on the longer runway 36. Ignoring warning messages from the onboard computer and using a series of sharp turns that tested the DC-10's safety limits, Sanders landed the jet safely on the runway at well over its maximum designed landing weight. By that time, Calloway was once again restrained. Emergency personnel gained access to the plane via escape slide and ladder. Inside, they found the cockpit interior covered in blood.[3]


The crew of Flight 705 sustained serious injuries.[2] Tucker's skull was severely fractured, causing motor control problems in his right arm and right leg. Calloway had also dislocated Tucker's jaw, attempted to gouge out one of his eyes and stabbed his right arm. Sanders suffered several deep gashes in his head and doctors had to sew his right ear back in place. Flight engineer Peterson's skull was fractured and his temporal artery severed. The aircraft itself incurred damages in the amount of $800,000 ($1,272,923 when adjusted for inflation).[2]

Calloway pleaded temporary insanity but was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences on August 15, 1995, for attempted murder and attempted air piracy.[1] Calloway, Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate #14601-076, is imprisoned in the United States Penitentiary, Atwater, near Atwater, California.[4]

On May 26, 1994, the Air Line Pilots Association awarded Dave Sanders, James Tucker and Andrew Peterson the Gold Medal Award for heroism, the highest award a civilian pilot can receive. Due to the extent and severity of their injuries, none of the crew has, so far, been recertified as medically fit to fly commercially. The attempted hijacking was later featured on Discovery Channel Canada's television show Mayday (otherwise known as Air Crash Investigation or Air Emergency). The episode (season 3, episode 9) was titled "Fight for Your Life (Suicide Attack)".

Although deemed medically unfit to return to commercial aviation, James Tucker took advantage of the 2004 Light Sport Aircraft regulations and returned to recreational flying in a Luscombe 8A. Using this aircraft, Tucker has taught his son, Andy Tucker, to fly. Tucker has also become a lay minister and has served as a lay pastor at local churches in the Headland, Alabama, area.

As of January 2013, the aircraft involved still flies for FedEx Express as a converted MD-10-30F and is still registered as N306FE.[5]

See also

Tennessee portal
Aviation portal


Further reading

  • Dave Hirschman and William Morrow (1997), Hijacked: The True Story of the Heroes of Flight 705, ISBN 978-0-688-15267-3.

External links

  • Cockpit voice recorder transcript and incident summary
  • Clips from the air traffic control tape
  • Aviation Safety Network

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