Freedom Flight depicts the desperate hijacking of a domestic flight by a small group of ordinary people intent on seeking freedom from an oppressive regime.The unseemly, post-war land grab by Russia had briefly raised the hopes of the beleaguered Hungarians of a bright new world, built on a system of equality, justice and opportunity. Instead of attempting to create a country run by the people for the people, Hungary – as did all the Soviet nations – got a vicious dictatorship. This was ruled by The Party and, if you weren’t a member or willing to follow every line to the letter, then life could be very unpleasant and probably short.
Little surprise then that many citizens were desperate to escape to the West, even though they knew that such bids for freedom were punishable by death and would have serious ramifications for their families. But escape was far from easy. The entire Hungarian border was ringed by the ‘iron curtain’: barbed wire, minefields and border patrols were deployed to cut down those who dared to run the gauntlet.
Throughout Freedom Flight, the personality of Frank Iszac is evident in the writing, creating a real sense of knowing what he was like, his passions, thoughts and motivations. He creates tension well as we await the moment when he and his collaborators on flight 387, attempt to wrest control of the plane and fly to West Germany out of the clutches of the AVO (the Hungarian secret police). Although we know from the outset that the attempt is successful, the reader is unaware of any specific details and the events do turn out to be dramatic and brutal.
However, I think that the first part of the book fails to sufficiently detail the horrors of living in a totalitarian state; it is not until they are on the plane that we fully understand why they are prepared to take such drastic action. Instead there are only fleeting references to the awfulness of life under the shadow of the Kremlin. This resulted in some uncertainty; why don’t they try and fight the system rather than escaping? Would you really risk your family being tortured? What about the innocent passengers on the plane? Ultimately these questions largely become resolved, but I think it would have better to set the scene far more forcefully and ensure the audience is fully on his side.