“Miss Macao”: One of the World’s First Hijackings

One of the world’s first hijackings of a commercial flight occurred on July 16, 1948 with the attempted takeover of a Cathay Pacific Catalina en route from Macau to Hong Kong. The attempted hijack went badly, and the aircraft — named “Miss Macao” — crashed into the Pearl River estuary with only one survivor. The four hijackers boarded the flight to Hong Kong, which took off at about 6 p.m. There was ample daylight left, as sunset that day was at 7:10 p.m. The short flight was known locally as the “one cigarette hop” — referring to the fact that the flight could be made in the time it took to smoke one cigarette. The leader of the air pirates, Choi Tok, had been studying the airline’s routine for months, and had learned to fly in Manila. The hijackers expected that there would be gold bullion carried on the flight, and that was their motivation for the hijacking. The four men made their move and tried to take control of the airplane with guns. Their plan instantly failed when Captain Dale Cramer refused to comply and Choi shot him in the head. With Cramer’s body slumped over the steering column, the aircraft spiraled out of control, plunging into the Pearl River estuary. Everyone onboard died in the crash, with the exception of one of the hijackers — rice farmer Wong Yu (inset) — who ironically had not taken part in the hijacking, but had remained belted into his seat. Without enough evidence to bring him to trial, Hong Kong authorities released Wong. He returned to his mainland village and was never heard from again. The end of Miss Macao also marked the end of Cathay Pacific’s gold-running flights.