Hampton Falls, NH – From spinning out in an F-94B Starfire at Dow AFB in the 1950s, to a double loop under a river bridge in Bucksport that almost cost him his wings, Col. Richard Vaux (ret.), is no stranger to danger. But it’s his civilian career as a pilot for TWA that proved the most dangerous – hauling munitions into the Middle East out of Frankfurt, narrowly avoiding being shot by PLO-backed Japanese Red Army terrorists at Lod Airport in 1972, and then catching a 40-millimeter bullet to the tail in an effort to steal back a 727 famously hijacked by Hezbollah in 1985.
Vaux recently published an account of that secret 1985 mission (with plenty of anecdotes from his years as a fighter pilot). Dirty Work: The untold story of my secret mission to steal TWA Flight 847 back from Hezbollah (ISBN 978-1072352884), debuted as the #1 new release on Amazon June 23rd, and quickly became one of the best-selling books on commercial aviation.
In 1985, shortly after takeoff from Athens, hijackers seized control of TWA Flight 847. The ensuing 17-day ordeal, which played out in the public eye, inspired two major motion pictures (Delta Force, starring Chuck Norris; and The Taking of Flight 847, starring Lindsey Wagner). Most Americans old enough to remember will instantly recognize the iconic picture of Captain John Testrake with his head out the cockpit window, pistol pressed to his temple, or the horrifying audio of a gunshot, followed by footage of hijackers throwing the body of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem onto the tarmac. Testrake and his surviving passengers returned to great fanfare, including a personal welcome by President Ronald Reagan.
Few, however, have heard the story of what happened two months later, when Vaux and two crew members flew secretly into Beirut and stole back the bloody and tattered airplane. The three men—all former military aviators—survived gunfire and sabotage, but kept the story largely to themselves at the request of their former employer, and the U.S. State Department. Until now.
Vaux, now 85, and in ill-health, sat down with journalist/author Brad Kuhn, in the fall of 2018, to tell in detail, for the first time, what happened during those four days, and provide never-before-seen pictures from inside the tattered and bloody cabin. Kuhn, a former staff writer for The Wall Street Journal, Orlando Business Journal and The Orlando Sentinel, places Vaux’s narrative within the larger context of the Middle East conflict, airline deregulation, and the hostile takeover of TWA by Carl Icahn.
The book is available NOW at Amazon.com in paperback, and will soon be available as an audiobook.