14 Badass Prison Escapes Brought to You by Helicopters

Hey hun, can you come pick me up? I hate it here
14 Badass Prison Escapes Brought to You by Helicopters

France is putting up Jordan numbers here. Of the 48 recorded incidents of helicopter prison escape attempts since 1971, 15 of them occurred in French prisons

‘Red Lucy’ the Liberation Librarian

Librarian Lucy Dudko hijacked a chopper in 1999 and forced it to pick up her boyfriend, armed robber John Killick, from an Australian prison. They lived on the lam for six weeks before being caught. “Red Lucy,” as the media dubbed her, was released after seven years, and Killick finished his sentence in 2015, but has to wait until he’s 80 before he can legally contact Lucy again.

Five Guys, Almost a Century of Prison Time

Five inmates at a Puerto Rican prison, facing a combined 895 years, joined forces and arranged for a helicopter to pick them up from a prison roof. One of them had to hang off the skids for the duration of the flight. Four of them were quickly captured, and admitted to murdering the fifth. That guy, however, resurfaced and gave himself up a few weeks later. That was in 2002, and was the last attempted chopper escape in the United States.

Air Mail

In 2001, a helicopter flew over a French prison and dumped a couple of guns and a bulletproof vest onto the grounds for two prisoners to scoop up and kick off a daring escape. They held a few guards hostage, but were ultimately stymied and surrendered within 24 hours.

The Escape That Your Middle School Gym Teacher Trained You For

In December 2000, a helicopter unfurled a large net while hovering just above a prison, and three inmates climbed up and held on for dear life while the chopper flew off. One was shot by guards, but the other two escaped — for like five minutes. They were quickly scooped up by police after a shoot out.

The ‘Escape King’ Meets His Match

Nordin Benallal is a Belgian criminal who has racked up around five decades of jail time. He’s escaped jail an impressive amount of times, by scaling a wall with a rope ladder, sprinting from a prison van and even putting on a wig and walking out the front door. But his helicopter escape attempt is what did him in for good: As the chopper hovered, a bunch of other inmates swarmed it, causing it to crash. He was able to hold a couple of guards hostage, and escape via car, but was captured a couple days later.

With Accomplices Like These, Right?

Three inmates at an Italian prison arranged for a helicopter to hover over the rec yard and fire at guards long enough for them to grab on for dear life. One inmate fell off as it was leaving, but the other two escaped, landing on a nearby soccer field in the middle of a game. They lived on the lam for a while, but were both eventually captured. One of them later admitted to shoving the third accomplice off the helicopter — to save him from further incarceration, because the guy only had two years left of his sentence. 

Jailbirds and Lovebirds

Ronald J. McIntosh calmly walked out of a minimum security prison in California, then a week later, hijacked a helicopter to return and pick up his girlfriend, Samantha Lopez. They were caught 10 days later when they went to a mall to buy wedding rings. After being convicted, they were sent to separate prisons, but McIntosh struggled free of his transport van just long enough to yell “I love you!” to  Lopez.

Hijacking as a Family Business

Garrett Brock Trapnell was a conman and aircraft hijacker whose wife commandeered a helicopter at gunpoint to try to rescue him. The chopper landed inside the jail, but the pilot wrestled the gun from her and killed her. A few months later, the couple’s teenaged daughter hijacked a TWA commercial flight, but failed in her attempt to negotiate her father’s release.

‘The Helicopter Song’

An IRA operative hijacked a helicopter and forced a landing in an Irish prison yard to scoop up three incarcerated members. A prisoner recalled the incident, saying, “One shamefaced screw apologized to the governor and said he thought it was the new Minister for Defence arriving. I told him it was our Minister of Defence leaving.” The story became a legendary folk song among the IRA, called “The Helicopter Song.”

The ‘Greek Robin Hood’ Can’t Be Contained

Vassilis Palaiokostas, a Greek bank robber, has escaped from Greece’s largest jail on two separate occasions.

Pascal Payet Escaped Three Times

The French convicted murderer has escaped prison via chopper in 2001, 2003 and 2007, holding the record for the most successful helicopter prison escapes.

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

In 1986, French bank robber Michel Vaujour was extracted by his wife, who had spent months learning to fly a helicopter. In order to gain roof access, he threatened guards with a fake gun and a bunch of nectarines painted to look like grenades. This was Vaujour’s fourth attempt to escape.

…Maybe Just Quit

The Vaujours were both imprisoned in 1991, but attempted a daring escape in 1993. A separate couple hijacked a helicopter, held the pilot’s family hostage and attempted to swoop in and extract the Vaujours. But the pilot’s wife managed to alert police, who locked down the prison. The hijackers then skedaddled via an escape craft with a higher success rate: car.

Joel David ‘The Man Fan’ Kaplan

In 1971, Kaplan, an American convicted murderer doing time in a Mexican prison, was picked up by a private helicopter sent by his wife. The plan was so brazen, every guard thought it was an official visit, and Kaplan and his cellmate hopped on board and were out of there within two minutes, without a single shot being fired. This was very possibly the first helicopter prison break in history.

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