In the annals of “Possibly Terrible But Improbably Well Resolved” events in recent history, this one ranks pretty high. You know what we’re talking about. Like if a Great White shark started swimming up to you but decided to go vegan along the way. Everything starts out looking very bad, but by some incredibly unlikely turn, resolves OK.
Something like that happened in 1985 on a flight coming into Oslo, Norway. And the improbable force that shifted the event was an unlikely trade: gun for beer.
As reports have it, on Friday, June 21, 1985, a man boarded a Braathens Boeing 737 on its way from Trondheim, Norway to Oslo. Unbeknownst to the 120 people on board, he was carrying a loaded gun. (A bit harder to do these days, though, yeah, things haven’t gotten a ton better.) At some point during the flight, he turned the gun on one of the crew members and hijacked the plane. His goal was simple: he wanted to speak to the Minister of Justice and Prime Minister of Norway.
As The New York Times reported the next day, the man, a former convict, “had spoken bitterly of his treatment by the authorities and demanded that Prime Minister Kare Willoch and Justice Minister Mona Rokke hear his complaints personally. Both officials refused.”
Despite the hijacking, the plane actually landed on time at the Oslo Fornebu airport, and the hijacker — just 24 years old —let all but five crew members off the plane. According to reports, he’d been drinking the entire time and was quite possibly drunk when he first boarded the plane. As he kept the crew hostage, he continued drinking, consuming the entire reserve of the plane’s beer. Police quickly surrounded the plane, and the hijacker’s only demand — beyond speaking to the government leaders — was more beer.
It stayed that way for about an hour after the hijacker first let the passengers go: he positioned himself in such a way as to keep an eye on the crew while drinking through the beer. After the plane ran out, the police supplied more. Finally, at one point, an officer took a chance: he refused to give the hijacker any more beer unless he traded him his gun. The hijacker, miraculously, accepted the trade.
Most everything about this incident is bad, or sad, from the fact that the ex-convict felt maltreated, to the frustratingly present dividing line between us and public officials, to the drastic, potentially deadly, measures the man took to be heard. The only incredibly unlikely and fortunate thing about this is the fact that by the time he was holding his last hostages, the man was willing to trade his gun for a beer. There’s maybe not a better trade we can think of.