Mariano Ventura being led away by detectives. / ABC

7 January 1970: Spain's first plane hijacking takes place

The pilot on a flight from Madrid to Zaragoza was ordered to fly to Cuba, then Albania, by an 18-year-old student with a authentic-looking toy pistol

Debbie Bartlett
DEBBIE BARTLETT

His name was Mariano Ventura, he was an 18-year-old IT student and probably nobody would ever have heard of him if he had not attempted to carry out Spain's first plane hijacking during the evening of 7 January 1970, using a toy pistol that he had bought the previous day.

Iberia's flight IB 032 had taken off from Madrid for Zaragoza as normal, but 50 minutes later Ventura produced the pistol and grabbed a female crew member, forcing her into the cockpit with him, where he told the pilot to fly to Cuba. On being told that the plane didn't have enough fuel, he ordered him to fly to Tirana in Albania instead. When the pilot said that wouldn't be possible either, the teenager threatened to kill all the passengers, one by one.

The pilot said he would have to land at Zaragoza to refuel, to which the hijacker agreed, but as they started their approach, despite the gun still being held to his neck, the pilot warned air traffic control what was happening.

By the time the plane landed, the runway was surrounded by military vehicles, police cars and as many tractors and lorries as it had been possible to find in the time.

Once the plane was on the ground, the military authorities ordered all the runway lights to be turned off. Ventura insisted that the aircraft had to take off again with enough fuel for Tirana within 15 minutes or he would start killing everyone on board, but as the military authorities tried to engage with him by megaphone, engineers were deflating two of the plane's tyres and a mechanic removed some of its fuses so its electrics would not work.

The authorities told the teenager that if he gave himself up he would go to jail for a couple of years and that would be the end of it, but if he harmed anybody he would be shot the very next day.

Ventura left the plane via an auxiliary stairway, and witnesses said he showed no signs of fear or nerves and that he "reeked of alcohol".

Spain's first plane hijack had lasted four and a half hours.