Unlawful Interference Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina VR-HDT, Friday 16 July 1948
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Date:Friday 16 July 1948
Type:Silhouette image of generic CAT model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina
Owner/operator:Cathay Pacific , opf Macau Air Transport Company - MATCO
Registration: VR-HDT
Fatalities:Fatalities: 25 / Occupants: 26
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed, written off
Category:Unlawful Interference
Location:ca 6 km NE off Kau Chau Island -   China
Phase: En route
Nature:Passenger - Scheduled
Departure airport:Porto Exterior Seaplane Base
Destination airport:Hong Kong-Kai Tak International Airport (HKG/VHHH)
A Consolidated Catalina seaplane, named 'Miss Macao', was destroyed when it impacted the water of the Zhujiang River Estuary, shortly after departure from the Porto Exterior Seaplane Base in Macau. All three crew members and all but one of the 26 passengers sustained fatal injuries.
The aircraft was operated by Cathay Pacific Airways on behalf of its subsidiary, the Macau Air Transport Company on a round trip between Hong Kong and Macau.
Seven or eight minutes after take-off from Macau four passengers hijacked the flight. Three of the hijackers carried handguns and threatened the pilot. The plan was to force the seaplane to land near a remote place at the coast line and rob the passengers. They could then be held by relatives of the pirates and ransomed.
However, the captain of the flight did not budge and the copilot attacked one of the hijackers with a mooring flag. Shots were then fired and in the scuffle the captain was hit in the head. The pilot slumped over the controls, sending the aircraft into a dive. Control was not regained and the aircraft impacted the sea. One of the hijackers was the only survivor.

This hijack is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the first hijack of a passenger aircraft. This is incorrect as there were six prior hijack cases in 1948.

PROBABLE CAUSE: "Sudden loss of control by the pilot as a result of being incapacitated by an armed passenger. The police authorities in Macau were in possession of certain evidence which appeared to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the crew of the aircraft were subjected to armed attack by certain passengers shortly after takeoff from Macau for Hong Kong."


Flight of no return: How a Cathay Pacific plane became the first hijacked commercial airliner (scmp.com, 20 July 2008)


  • 19th worst accident in 1948
  • worst accident of this aircraft type
  • worst accident of this aircraft type at the time



photo (c) John W. M. Furley; Hong Kong-Kai Tak International Airport (HKG/VHHH); 1946

Revision history:


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