Flight 482 Is Missing
Captain Armando Piedra, 40, pilot for Cubana airlines, was flying from Havana to the Cuban city of Cienfuegos eight months ago when rebels fighting for Fidel Castro popped up among the passengers, commandeered the plane, forced Piedra to head for Mexico. A fortnight ago it fell to Piedra, who is also a good amateur skindiver, to dive to the sunken hull of a Cubana airlines Viscount that crashed and killed 17 of 20 passengers when rebel hijackers tried to force it to land near Cuba's Nipe Bay (TIME, Nov. 10). By last week, when Piedra took a Cubana DC-3 up from the little, bullet-stippled one-story airport in seaside Manzanillo, in the shadow of the rebel-held Sierra Maestra hijacking was getting to be a bit of a bore. But Piedra and his Flight 482 never landed at their destination, Holguin. Next morning the rebels sent word that the DC-3 and its 25 passengers, including a U.S. bluejacket, had been hijacked and safely landed in rebel territory.
It was the second DC-3 and, Viscount included, the third Cubana airlines plane that Castro captured in as many weeks. He thus 1) deprived Cubana of nearly one-fourth of its planes, worth $1,160,000; 2) helped sever the government's air link to beleaguered Santiago, already virtually cut off by land; and 3) provided himself with the nucleus of an air transport force to service rebel columns marauding in CamagŁey and Las Villas provinces.
At week's end the rebels were negotiating through the Red Cross to return the kidnaped passengers and crewmen. Among them: Amado Cantillo, steward on Piedra's plane and son of Major General Eulogio Cantillo, now commanding the forces fighting Castro in Oriente.