In late December of 1985, a woman contacted the Palmetto Helicopter Company in order to schedule a recreational helicopter tour. She showed up for her tour a week later, and once airborne, threatened the pilot with a handgun. The two flew 15 miles south and landed on the grounds of a South Carolina penitentiary, where five inmates jumped aboard. However, the helicopter struggled to take off, and a corrections officer attempted to pull some of the men from the helicopter. In the process he was shot in the face and retreated, but the pilot pointed out that they were still carrying too much weight to lift off. Two of the inmates were pushed from the helicopter, and those remaining barely cleared the wall while sustaining heavy fire from prison guards. They landed just a few miles away and entered a silver getaway car, taking the keys to the aircraft with them. After the inmates fled with the woman, the pilot ran to a nearby building and called police.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the four suspects were captured just a short time later. The woman, Joyce Bailey, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for air piracy, and the other suspects received even more severe punishments. In 1989 Bailey attempted to sell the story of the escape attempt to be made into a movie. However federal law prevents criminals convicted of serious crimes (including air piracy) from profiting from their exploits, so the money was instead sent to the guard Bailey shot during the escape, who at the time still suffered from his injuries.