Samuel Byck was born on January 30, 1930 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents were quite poor and he dropped out of high school.

In 1954, he joined the United States Army for two years and was discharge in 1956. After the army he married a woman and fathered four children. He also tried to start several businesses, but all ultimately failed, causing him to develop a severe case of depression. When he tried to get a loan from the Small Business Administration to start a new business, he was turned down and developed a strong hatred for Richard Nixon.

In 1972, he admitted himself at a psychiatric clinic, where he revealed his ideas that the government conspired to oppress the poor in the United States. That same year, he started sending out audio tapes of himself threatening Richard Nixon to public officials and the Secret Service was notified, but considered him generally harmless.

In 1973, he began developing a plot to kill Richard Nixon. His idea was to hijack an airplane and crash it into the White House. He decided to enact his plan in early 1974.

The first step was to get a weapon to allow him to perform the hijacking. He decided to steal a .22 caliber pistol from a friend and also made a bomb using two gallons of gasoline. He also recorded himself talking about his plans, stating that he believed he would be a hero after the assassination.

On the morning of February 22, 1974, he drove to the Baltimore International Airport with intent to hijack a plane. He was stopped by George Ramsburg, a security officer at the airport, but ended up shooting him to continue on his way. He ran through the airport and boarded a Flight 523 to Atlanta aboard a DC-9.

On the plane, he went to the cabin and ordered the pilots to take off, but they refused and stated that the wheel blocks had to be removed before the plane could leave. In a fit of rage, he shot both pilots and ordered a random passenger to fly the plane at gunpoint. In the meantime, police officers managed to board the plane and fired shots through the door, injuring Byck. As the police attempted to enter the cabin, he shot himself in the head.

Paramedics managed to save the pilot of the flight, but the copilot died from the gunshot wounds. It was not difficult for the police to determine his motives since Byck had mailed a tape recording of his plan to a news columnist, Jack Anderson, prior to the attempted hijacking.