June 4, 1971: Glenn Elmo Riggs Hijacks Plane At Kanawha Airport

Glen Riggs arrested

On June 4, 1971, West Virginia’s only documented plane hijacking occurred in Charleston. Glenn Elmo Riggs, a 58-year-old retired coal miner from Boone County, hijacked a United Airlines flight that had stopped over at Kanawha Airport—now known as Yeager Airport. 

He boarded the flight with a .32-caliber pistol and a box of bullets. Shortly after takeoff, he hijacked the 737 and demanded that the pilots fly him to Israel so he could help build a new temple.

When the plane landed at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, Riggs released the passengers and the flight attendant but continued to hold the pilots and flight engineer at gunpoint for hours while waiting on a DC-8 to take him to Israel.

The flight engineer eventually grabbed Riggs’s .32 when the hijacker went to get some water. The police soon charged the plane and arrested Riggs.

After being taken into custody, Riggs told reporters, “I don’t even know how I got on the plane,” and “you know about as much as I do.” He was convicted of air piracy and sentenced to two 20-year sentences in prison.