Date: January 7, 1972

Flight Info: Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 902 from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

The Story: A 20-year-old student at Golden Gate College, Robinson had met and fallen in love with Allen Sims while working in a bookstore. Their son, Atiba, was born in August 1971. Sims, who had previously been hospitalized for paranoid delusions, convinced Robinson to fly with him and the baby to Los Angeles. As the flight prepared to land, Sims whispered in Robinson’s ear, “When I get up you have to watch the other one; otherwise, we’re all gonna crash.” He then retrieved a sawed-off shotgun that he had hidden in Atiba’s cradle and jammed it in a stewardess’s nose. Robinson then took a pistol from the cradle and pointed it at the other stewardess. The couple demanded to be flown to “Africa,” but was informed that the plane didn’t have the range necessary to make the transatlantic trip. They instead settled for a trip to Cuba, with a refueling stop in Tampa. During the trip, Sims assaulted several passengers, including a long-haired youth whom he clubbed with the butt of his shotgun. Robinson, meanwhile, forced one of the stewardesses to crochet a hat for Atiba.

The Upshot: The couple moved to Jamaica in 1973, and Robinson secretly returned to the U.S. with Atiba and another child in 1975. She switched her last name to McCray, moved to Sacramento, became a clerical worker, and had three more children with a new boyfriend. Then in 1987, Atiba turned her in to the authorities after claiming that she had tried to kill him. Robinson was sentenced to 20 years in prison, despite her stated regrets about the hijacking. She was released in 1995, and went on to found Families with a Future, an organization dedicated to helping the children of incarcerated mothers.


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