Exclusive: Man Who Once Hijacked Airplane Tells WJ Why He’s Running for Mayor of NYC

The campaign to become New York City’s next mayor ends in less than a week, and there likely won’t be any major surprises.

Incumbent Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to win given numerous built-in advantages he benefits from in the liberal city. He is facing off against Republican assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis along with a host of other third-party candidates. If polling serves as any indicator, de Blasio will coast to victory. 

However, though the outcome of the election may not be in doubt, the candidacy of Libertarian Party nominee Aaron Commey is a bit surprising.

He’s attracted a lot of attention since securing his party’s nomination — attention that appears unorthodox for a candidate running for elected office.

Commey — who is running a serious bid to become mayor of the largest city in the United States — spent years in a mental health facility following an attempted airplane hijacking in 2000.

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Seventeen years ago, Commey stormed the cockpit of a Boeing 757 carrying 150 passengers and crew and demanded that the plane fly to Antarctica. Commey, 22 at the time, was armed with a gun and pointed it at the pilots as he ordered them to fly the Las Vegas-bound plane to his desired destination instead.

Commey, who suffered from severe delusion at the time of the incident, was convinced that an evil force was operating on the icy continent. It was his intention to parachute down into Antarctica and fight the evildoers, an organization he referred to as the “Cabal.”

The plane never took off and Commey eventually surrendered to police after several hours of negotiation. He was later found not guilty by reason of insanity.

“At that point I was very confused and very emotionally fragile. I thought people were coming to get me, they were going to kill a lot of  people and I needed to act,” Commey explained in an exclusive interview with The Western Journal.

Almost two decades later, he explained the healing process he underwent while institutionalized.

“It took me a couple of years to basically come to my senses, come out the haze, and realize that none of that was based on reality.”

According to Commey, the skills he learned to fully eradicate his delusion have helped him in many other aspects of life. The Libertarian candidate is constantly self-analyzing his actions and thoughts. He’s adopted self-help practices that he believes everyone should perform to avoid living in their own thought bubbles.

“It allowed me to do a couple of things. One of the things was to improve myself and do a self-analysis — that’s something I do constantly,” he said. “Checking my thoughts and making sure that I’m making sense. I think it serves people in all walks of life because a lot of times people get stuck in these echo-chambers where they’re not critically analyzing their belief systems.”

Commey ultimately spent about 15 years in different health facilities before being released in 2015. However, he claims he had made a recovery before he was finally allowed back into society.

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“I recovered in 2003 and then I was transferred to Massachusetts in 2004. In 2005, a panel in Massachusetts recommended my release. Unfortunately, in 2006 a different panel came and said ‘Oh, well we disagree,’ and that was the point when I was engaged in this lengthy court battle of trying to secure my release and I was able to eventually secure it once I was transferred to Missouri,” Commey explained. 

Despite a panel deeming him worthy of release as early as 2005, Commey was not released for another 10 years. During the process, he had to fight vehemently in court to prove his sanity. The road to freedom was a long one, but he was finally released about two years ago.

“In 2014, they recommended my release. In 2015, I was released,” he said. 

Commey battled for years with what he described as an ineffective and bureaucratic government that was slow to recognize he had healed. The whole ordeal served as fuel for his political ambitions.

“I witnessed a lack of accountability in government officials doing whatever they wanted to do and these systems of checks and balances that are supposed to rein in their power were ineffectual. That’s one of the reasons why I decided I needed to get out and run,” he said. 

“There are a lot of people suffering at the hands of corrupt government officials.”

It was his fight with the government and his introduction to former Texas Rep. Ron Paul that inspired him to identify as a Libertarian.

“My awakening to libertarianism came from watching Ron Paul in the 2012 election. I had studied Constitutional law informally and I’d seen so many problems with what the federal government is doing versus what it’s allowed to do,” Commey said.  

“Seeing Ron Paul speak about these issues — which I saw no other candidate speaking about — is what made me say ‘I gotta learn more about that guy.’”

Released in 2015 and fully recovered, it didn’t take long for the unorthodox candidate to set his sights on elected office.

Drawing off his experience with red tape and bloated bureaucracy, the Libertarian Party nominee now wants to make government more efficient. He is running to reform several government services.

Advocating for major updates to education, Commey wants to see subjects such as finance, economics and business management added into the K-12 curriculum. These are subjects that are extremely important for working Americans, but he believes they are not well-covered in public education.

“There’s no reason we should spend 13 years teaching kids and then when they get out all they can get is a retail job.”Commey believes major criminal justice reform is necessary as well, arguing that unnecessary drug enforcement policies have created a rift between police and the communities they serve.

“We need to stop focusing on nonviolent drug crimes, not violent vice crimes. We need to get back out of the way because it’s a waste of resources and it’s a drain on the police department, their morale,” he said “It actually creates static between public and police.”

Also akin to typical Libertarian ideology, Commey wants to see more support for charter schools in New York City. Commey, who is an African-American himself living in the Bronx, argues that anti-school choice policies hurt minority communities the most.

Commey was critical of both de Blasio and President Donald Trump. He argued that his liberty-minded philosophy can attract both conservative and liberal voters in the Big Apple.

While he recognizes the insurmountable odds he faces as a third-party candidate running against a well-funded incumbent, he explained to The Western Journal that he isn’t just running this race for his own candidacy.

Commey hopes that by running for mayor of the city, he can help other Libertarians down ballot.

“One of the things that I think is important is to shine a spotlight on down ballot, down-ticket candidates. Those are the races most likely to be able to win,” he said. “We have people on the ticket who have a stronger shot and I think what’s important in my campaign is to take opportunities to shine a spotlight on other candidates.”

De Blasio enjoys a high floor of approval, as registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in New York City by a 6-to-1 margin.

A Quinnipiac University poll released in early October showed de Blasio with an astounding lead over his rivals, as 61 percent of likely New York City voters said they favored the incumbent. The closest contender, Malliotakis, came in at only 17 percent.

The election will take place on Tuesday, November 7.

Jason Hopkins is The Western Journal’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.