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Our man in Havana On an Eastern Airlines DC-8 from Atlanta approaching Miami, the "Fasten Seat Belts" light had already flashed on, when Dick Skelly, Miami MAS consultant, heard the man seated next to him tell two companions nearby: "It's time to go." 22 One stood up in the aisle and held a gun on the stewardess. Another waved a pistol to show the passengers he was armed. Dick asked his seat mate, as calmly as he could, "Are you going to take us on a trip?" The leader of the trio told him firmly, "Cool it, man." So Dick cooled it. In fact, he had the next 18 hours to cool his heels because his aircraft became one more in the long line of planes hijacked to Cuba. During their extended trip, Dick and his fellow passengers on Eastern's Flight 121 were by turns nervous and bored. One passenger, who said he was a Texan and knew how to shoot, tried to grab the hijackers' luggage to find another gun. Fortunately he was restrained before panic broke out. An elderly woman passenger behind Dick did not really know what was happening. She looked out the window as the plane was landing and exclaimed: "My, Miami looks pretty at night!" Dick merely said, "Ma'am, I've been flying into Miami for ten years and that down there is not Miami." As the meaning of Dick's reply dawned upon her, the woman's eyes opened wide in astonishment. To some people, hijacking is an adventure. To others it is an inconvenience. But to Dick it was an opportunity to compare Cuba today with the Cuba he had visited many times before Fidel Castro came to power. The plane landed in Havana about 10:30 at night. Dick said that marked the start of what seemed to him like calculated harassment of the passengers. For an hour and a half after landing, they were kept waiting at the airport and told nothing of what was to be done with them or when they could leave. At midnight, Cuban officials offered them ham and cheese sandwiches with orange juice. The meal, Dick said, was hardly appetizing. Then came a two-hour wait. At 2 a.m. the passengers were herded aboard buses for a weary ride to the former Varadero Beach Hotel, renamed now for heroes of the revolution. Dick called Varadero "once the most beautiful beach in the Caribbean." After a short rest, the passengers were aroused at 8 a.m., offered ham and cheese sandwiches again, then were left to wait in uncertainty. During their enforced inactivity, Dick said, they observed a large number of Russians and Chinese at the resort area, but the forced visitors were not permitted to enjoy its pleasures. At 12:30 in the afternoon they were offered a greasy fried chicken lunch and then were told to get ready to leave. Finally, at 2 p.m., the group boarded buses and were driven to the airport. Two propeller planes waited to transport the DC-8 passengers to Miami. The Castro government had contended that the runway at Havana's airport is too small to allow a fully loaded jet to take off. All planes, scheduled or not, pay landing and other airport fees, which help to bolster the hard-pressed island economy. Recently, however, fully loaded jets have been permitted to leave from Havana. By the time they were back at the airport, Dick and his fellow passengers were more than ready to leave. At the last minute, though, Cuban officials said a hotel key was missing and no plane could leave till all the keys had been accounted for. By 3 p.m., nearly 18 hours after the episode began, Dick was on his way home. Awaiting him at H&S in Miami was a schedule that included a trip to Orlando within a few days. He wondered if he should drive this time.
Skelly, Richard D.
Denman, Richard W.
Crawford, John M.
Otto, Olney F.
Haskins & Sells. Miami Office
Haskins & Sells. Salt Lake City Office
Haskins & Sells. Executive Office
Haskins & Sells. St. Louis Office
Haskins & Sells. San Juan Office
Haskins & Sells. Philadelphia Office
H&S Reports, Vol. 06, (1969 spring), p. 22-25
|Source||Originally published by: Haskins & Sells|
|Rights||Copyright and permission to republish held by: Deloitte|
|Format||PDF page image with corrected OCR scanned at 400 dpi|
|Collection||Deloitte Digital Collection|
|Digital Publisher||University of Mississippi Library. Accounting Collection|