Ryan Weaver is a serial killer who is known as the Lonely Hearts Strangler. Ryan was raised by his aunt, who disappeared 19 years ago when Ryan was 16-years-old. Two years ago, Ryan was convicted of raping and killing 5 women in the Los Angeles area, and Ryan was sentenced to be executed, but on his way to the prison, Ryan escaped. For the two years since the escape, Los Angeles cop Aldo Hines has been after Ryan. In New York City, Aldo finally finds Ryan, and Ryan is prepared to be extradited to Los Angeles. Two days later, on Christmas Eve, TransCon Airlines flight 7 takes off with four U.S. Marshals on the airplane guarding Ryan and another convict named Stubbs. While the airplane is over Akron, Ohio, Stubbs kills all four of the marshals. Ryan then grabs a gun and kills Stubbs. During this melee, pilot Matt Powell and co-pilot Ted Kary are both killed, leaving the autopilot to fly the airplane, and Ryan takes the airplane hostage. Flight attendant Teri Halloran rushes to the cockpit, where she radios the nearest control tower and is patched through to Tower Airlines pilot Samuel Bowen, who tries to help her as Ryan repeatedly tries to kill her.