Current Event Cat of the Day: Co-Pilot Hijinks

Current Event Cat - Co-pilot

Suspicious looking Muslims aren’t the only ones you have to worry about now when you fly. Co-pilots can also cause onboard hijack hijinks.

The co-pilot of an Ethiopian Airlines plane flying from Addis Ababa to Rome hijacked his own plane in an attempt to gain asylum in Switzerland. Hailemedhin Abera Tegegn, 31, took control of the aircraft when the pilot left the cockpit to take a quick leak. The co-pilot then diverted the plane to Geneva, landed, climbed out of the cockpit using a rope, and demanded political asylum.

As the plane entered Swiss airspace, Switzerland sat back and let France and Italy takeover. Because the hijacking occurred outside of business hours (8am until noon, and 1:30 to 5pm), Swiss fighter jets remained on the ground.

“Switzerland cannot intervene because its airbases are closed at night and on the weekend,” a Swiss airforce spokesman said, adding: “It’s a question of budget and staffing.”

If only the co-pilot had invaded the airspace at 4:59pm!

As a result, Switzerland relied on its neighbours, France and Italy. French and Italian jets were scrambled by NATO to escort the suspicious aircraft into Swiss airspace and land it safely.

The plane’s 200 passengers and crew all arrived in Geneva safely, albeit a little freaked out. Aware that the plane had been hijacked but unaware of any details, passengers were forced to sit through a six hour flight wondering if they were going to go down with the plane. One passenger said the hijacker threatened to crash the plane if the pilot didn’t stop pounding on the locked cockpit door.

After crawling out of the cockpit, the co-pilot turned himself in to the police and is being detained.

“Just after landing, the co-pilot came out of the cockpit and ran to the police and said, ‘I’m the hijacker.’ He said he is not safe in his own country and wants asylum,” police spokesman Pierre Grangean said.

No word yet on why he chose Switzerland as his asylum destination. The country is not exactly known for being immigrant friendly, what with the recent “Stop Mass Immigration” plan and all. But apparently 20 years in a Swiss prison is a more appealing option than spending one more minute in Ethiopia.

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