Kaye recalls, “It was just surreal and I remember thinking I can’t be seeing what I am seeing.”
Kaye and fellow flight attendant Gay Rennie were ushered through the plane to the cockpit where the hijacker pointed the gun at pilot Ralph Young, who responded they had to land as the plane was running out of fuel.
“Once we landed in Alice Springs is when all the negotiations started,” Kaye tells.
Hrabinec wanted a new plane to take him over the desert, where he planned to parachute into the wilderness and kill himself. Despite the crew’s efforts to talk him out of it, Hrabinec was insistent.
He then allowed all but six passengers off the plane, before making Kaye open the door when he fired three shots.
“I don’t think he wanted to hurt anyone, but he did this when he felt pushed into a corner as things began to go wrong,” she says.
When a new plane arrived with local pilot Ossie Watts and undercover police officer Paul Sandeman, posing as a flight navigator, the hijacking took a more sinister turn. Hrabinec insisted Kaye accompany him into the new plane.
“That was when I had real fear that if I got into that other aircraft, I would not be coming back,” Kaye says.
Once on the tarmac, police officer Sandeman made a grab for Hrabinec’s gun, but was shot in the hand and stomach.
The hijacker then ran off and jumped into a ditch, where he shot himself. He died later in hospital.
Kaye made a desperate dash for safety, running back to the Ansett plane where Gay let her in and locked the door. “All I felt was relief when I got inside,” she says.
A week later, Kaye was back at work on the same plane. “I felt I had to, to get over it,” she says.
Due to the hijacker having no identification, it took until May 1973 for Hrabinec to be identified as the culprit through fingerprint matching.
Kaye remained with Ansett, on and off, for the next 30 years.
On this 50th anniversary, Kaye believes the hijacking should never be forgotten.
“This is Australian history and while I am still here and have all my marbles, I think it’s important to tell the story and never forget the bravery of the people that day. This was part of what shaped me.”