Pirateque In ‘The Hijacking Of Flight 601’ Explained: Is Aerobolivar’s Director Based On A Real Person?

Back in the 1970s, there was a hijacking of Flight 601 (originally named the HK-1274 aircraft) from Bogota Airport, Columbia, by two terrorists. It was quite common in Latin America at that time, often to protest oppression, especially in places like communist Cuba. This time, there were 43 passengers, 2 pilots, and 3 air hostesses on board. But one person stood up to try and save lives, risking his own life and career—the director of Aerobolivar Airlines, Alvaro Aristides Pirateque. Now, even though Netflix’s The Hijacking Of Flight 601 insinuates that the character of Pirateque is based on a real-life person, there is little to no evidence to say the same with certainty. Aerobolivar Airlines is a fictional aviation company. In real life, it was a SAM Colombia airplane that got hijacked on May 30, 1973. There is hardly any information about the presiding director of the company at that time, and even Massimo Di Ricco’s reports, on whose book the series is based, don’t introduce any such person. We indeed meet a company’s negotiating lawyer, Ignacio Mustafa, who negotiated with the terrorists, but to suggest that Pirateque’s character is based on Mustafa would be a bit far-fetched. Hence, it would be safe to assume that Pirateque and his lover, Manchola, are completely fictitious characters in the series, and even if they are inspired by real-life people, then their names have been changed to protect their identity. With that said, let’s explore the character of Pirateque and find out what happened to him in the end. How did the hijacking change his life completely? 


Spoilers Ahead

Why Did Pirateque Want To Negotiate? 

When we first meet Pirateque, he seems like just an ordinary middle-aged guy, keeping his mind on his job and sometimes on his secretary, Manchola, and maybe a bit on drinking to handle the work pressure. But imagine how stressful things got when he got the call that Flight 601 had been hijacked by two terrorists, putting his passengers’ lives at risk. His first duty was clear: keep the passengers safe. How would he do it? Well, he tried to get all the air hostesses from his airline to go to the hijacked plane and serve the passengers. When nobody volunteered, he had to swallow his pride and rehire Edilma, an air hostess he had fired, knowing she’d willingly risk her life to save the passengers, along with her friend Barbara. He wasted no time. But here’s the twist: he thought the plane was heading to Havana, but it was actually going to Aruba for the terrorists to negotiate their demands with the government. They wanted $200,000 and the release of their revolutionary prisoners to fight against the rich-oppressor folks. If they didn’t get what they wanted, they’d start shooting passengers. As the airline director, it was Pirateque’s responsibility to keep the passengers safe. So what did he do? With brandy in hand, he negotiated with the terrorists, promising to get them the money after talking to the president and the airline owner. But they refused to give in. Meanwhile, there was another problem on the hijacked plane. There was a supposed pregnant lady on board (later found to be a trick by Edilma for an escape plan), and she was having contractions. The terrorists said they’d let her go if Pirateque gave them $400,000, so the ransom just got higher just like that! He had no choice. He loved his career, but more importantly, he was a good man who cared about his passengers, whom he swore to protect. So he promised to get them the money within three hours, ensuring no harm would come to the passengers. He made tough decisions, but he was determined to keep everyone safe.


Why Did He Have To Go To The Hijacked Plane Himself? 

As Pirateque tried to reach out to the president or the airline owner for help, they dismissed him, hurling insults about his weight and calling him thick-brained. They couldn’t understand why he thought they’d hand over so much money to negotiate with terrorists. Pirateque warned them about the potential for tragedy—a dead baby and a massive massacre—if they didn’t take action, but they didn’t seem to care. So Pirateque came up with a plan. He realized that if he could get his journalist friend, Francisco “El Fraco” Marulanda, to cover the situation live on TV, the government might finally grasp the seriousness of the situation. Meanwhile, he tried to distract the terrorists by engaging them in conversation, asking about their backgrounds, their signs, if they were baptized or not—all kinds of silly talk just to distract them from the passengers. But when both the airlines and the president refused to help, Pirateque decided to take matters into his own hands. He offered the terrorists $50,000, but they weren’t satisfied. To intimidate Pirateque, they pretended to shoot a passenger on board. Pirateque couldn’t stand it anymore. Despite threats from the president and the risk of being labeled an accomplice, Pirateque made a bold move. He promised them that he would give them two hundred thousand dollars to release all the women and children on live television if the terrorists agreed to let them go. Then he held an official press conference to make the matter official. But here’s the kicker: Pirateque didn’t actually have the money. So, he broke into the airline’s safe and took out the cash with the help of his secretary. He knew this could ruin his career and land him in jail, but he couldn’t ignore the danger the passengers were in. He boarded an airplane, despite his fear of flying, and flew to Aruba. From there, he borrowed a bike from a resident and went to deliver the money himself. The simple man turned out to be incredibly brave and willing to take risks to save lives.

Was He Able To Save Lives? 

As Pirateque arrived with the money, he negotiated with the terrorists, offering the bag of cash in exchange for releasing the passengers one by one. But things took a turn when Captain Richard Wilches made a comment that offended the terrorists about how they should look for work instead of robbing people, which led to a heated altercation between him and the terrorists. They ended up disrespecting the captain by throwing money in his face, sparking a physical fight for control of the gun. Pirateque could only stand there, witnessing the mess unfolding before his eyes. Instead of taking the money and letting the passengers go, the passengers themselves started running towards the escape door to save themselves under Edilma’s guidance. They threatened to shoot the remaining passengers if the captain didn’t fly the plane again. Before Pirateque’s eyes, the plane took off once more, leaving some passengers behind. Despite his efforts, money couldn’t save them all, and Pirateque felt like a failure. Things went from bad to worse when Pirateque learned that the plane was heading back to Bogota, where the vice minister, Esguerra, was considering a military assault that could result in everyone’s death. In a desperate move, Pirateque locked Esguerra and others in a room and warned the plane of the impending danger. Unfortunately, we see how the situation didn’t go in Pirateque’s favor. He ended up in jail for negotiating with criminals, and his noble intentions were overshadowed by the tragic outcome.


However, at the end of The Hijacking Of Flight 601, we see that everyone returned home safely from the hijacked plane, and no lives were lost. As for Pirateque, he received a 17-month sentence in jail. However, he was happy working in jail and getting his hands dirty in manual labor. At the same time, he was hoping to start his new life with Manchola, his secretary, who had always been with him through thick and thin. He was even happier when he got out of jail and married her. They moved to Guaduas and never worked in the aerospace sector again. Perhaps this was because the reality of people in this sector was revealed to them—how every airline talks big about serving passengers and saving them, but when the time comes, they turn a blind eye. Pirateque was happy to leave this all in the past and start a new life on his own terms.

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Sutanuka Banerjee
Sutanuka Banerjee
Sutanuka, a devoted movie enthusiast, embarked on her cinematic journey since childhood, captivated by the enchanting world of the Harry Potter series. This early passion ignited her love for movies, providing an escape into the magical realms of cinema. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in media science, combining her academic pursuits with her unwavering passion for the silver screen.

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