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Quietly Overlooked—Why Sims were spared from becoming the (next) cause of all evil in the world

On July 23, 1999, a 28 year-old self-proclaimed computer flight simulation enthusiast hijacked ANA Flight 61 from Tokyo to Sapporo (a Boeing 747-400) with an eight-inch cooking knife. After commandeer the jumbo jet, this Japanese man demanded that the pilot fly the aircraft toward Yokosuka (a US Naval base south of Tokyo). Several minutes later the man demanded to land the aircraft himself at another US airbase near Tokyo. When the pilot refused, the hijacker stabbed him in the neck (the pilot eventually bled to death) and proceeded to take control of the aircraft.

After beginning his descent, the hijacker set off the aircraft's ground proximity warning and members of a deadheading crew who were now standing just outside the cockpit door rushed in and overpowered the hijacker at an altitude of 600AGL (Above Ground Level). The aircraft was later landed without further incident by one of the other pilots.

Naturally, as with many such shocking crimes, no one has the real explanation of what possessed this guy to do such a thing, but as simulation buffs we can probably take a pretty good guess. Let's be honest—flying a 747 is a fantasy that very few of us can deny having at one time or another. Nevertheless, sane people don't act upon such whims. But the most shocking aspect of this whole incident is the mainstream media didn't jump all over the story.

After all of the "associations" created between first-person shooter computer games and the shooting sprees perpetrated by teens around the U.S., I was really surprised that someone didn't pick up on the chance to connect yet another computer-based entertainment genre to more violence. Was it because the plane didn't crash and cause massive death and destruction (there were 504 passengers and 14 crewmembers aboard)? Or was it because the murder of a single man—the pilot—not newsworthy enough? Perhaps it's because it didn't happen over American soil/airspace? Or is it because hijacking simulations (yes, they exist for Microsoft Flight Simulator) aren't popular enough?

Whatever the reason, personally I'm very happy that it wasn't publicized enough to make it worthwhile for those on a crusade to vilify computer-based entertainment again. Can you imagine movements to age-rate or censor flight sims?

©2000 Ben Chiu

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Copyright © 1999- Ben Chiu. All rights reserved.

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