Co-Pilot Hijacked Own Aircraft — to Seek Asylum in Switzerland
When the pilot of the Boeing 767-300 aircraft — which operated as Ethiopian Airlines flight 702 and was carrying 193 passengers from Addis Ababa to Rome — left the cockpit to use the lavatory earlier today, Hailemedhin Abera Tegegn was in control of the plane and decided to take that opportunity to “hijack” the aircraft to Geneva in order to seek asylum.
At some time when Tegegn — the co-pilot and second in command of the aircraft who is 31 years of age and has been an employee of Ethiopian Airlines for approximately five years — took control of the airplane, the transponder of the aircraft started “squawking” the code 7500 to indicate that the flight was being hijacked.
FlyerTalk members tracked the scenario live as it happened and are still commenting on this bizarre incident.
After being escorted by military aircraft as it circled over Geneva, the Boeing 767-300 aircraft finally landed safely with reportedly very little fuel left — but the damage had already been done in terms of causing other flights to be diverted or canceled.
The official press release from Ethiopian Airlines reads as follows:
Ethiopian Airlines flight 702, on scheduled service departing from Addis Ababa on 17 February 2014 at 00:30 (local time) and scheduled to arrive in Rome at 04:40 (local time), was forced to proceed to Geneva Airport. Accordingly, the flight has landed safely at Geneva Airport and all passengers and crew are safe at Geneva Airport.
The cause of the diversion of the flight is under investigation. Ethiopian Airlines has made all the necessary arrangements to ensure that its esteemed passengers are being properly handled while in Geneva and can proceed to their intended destinations, to Rome and Milan, at the earliest.
Ethiopian Airlines wishes to apologize to its esteemed customers for the inconvenience caused by this diversion.
After reportedly jumping out of a window of the cockpit and scurrying down an emergency rope, Tegegn was taken into custody by Swiss police and faces a significant amount of prison time if convicted. It is unknown at this time whether or not he would be imprisoned in Switzerland or extradited to Ethiopia to face charges in that country.
Although this was an unusual event, could this incident possibly lead to stricter standards with regard to the flight crew who pilot aircraft in the future? What do you think?