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Ethiopian Co-pilot Threatened to “Crash Plane” if Pilot Regained Control
An Italian passenger on a recent Ethiopian Airlines jet that was hijacked by the co-pilot said that the co-pilot would crash the plane if the pilot got back into the cockpit.
The plane was headed to Rome when the co-pilot took control of the plane and landed the Ethiopian Airlines jet in Geneva. According to the Italian News Agency ANSA, the passenger, Francesco Cuomo, 25, was quoted in saying that the pilot was trying to break the cockpit door down without success.
The hijacker spoke poor English on the loudspeaker saying he would crash the plane in response and then the oxygen masks came down.
After landing the jet in Switzerland, police said the hijacking co-pilot used a rope to lower himself out of the cockpit window. No passengers were hurt and were escorted off the plane one-by-one with their hands on their heads to awaiting vehicles.
A spokesman for the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation, Urs Holderegger confirmed the plane landed in Geneva at 6:05 a.m. local time Monday. Geneva Police said at a press conference, that the co-pilot surrendered to police and requested asylum in Switzerland.
The chief executive at Geneva Airport told reporters that the co-pilot was born in Ethiopia in 1983. Ethiopia’s communications minister, Redwan Hussein identified the co-pilot as Hailemedhin Abera. He has been working for Ethiopian Airlines for five years. Hussein said the plane sent out a distress message while flying over Sudan’s airspace en route to Europe. “From Sudan all the way to Switzerland, the co-pilot took control of the plane,” he said.
According to Olivier Jornot, a prosecutor in Geneva, Swiss federal authorities investigating the hijacking, will press charges that could carry a 20 year prison sentence.
“We had no clue about the hijacking, but got scared when the plane suddenly started diving, it seemed like it was falling from the sky,” Italian passenger Diego Carpelli, 45, told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
“His action represents a gross betrayal of trust that needlessly endangered the lives of the very passengers that a pilot is morally and professionally obliged to safeguard,” Redwan said.
At first, passengers on the flight didn’t know the plane was being hijacked. Swiss authorities thought the jet wanted to land in Geneva to refuel, before realizing the plane was hijacked. The plane was carrying 200 passengers and seven flight crew.
The Ethiopian Government owns the Ethiopian Airports. There have been many hijackings by Ethiopians, mainly running from the unrest in the East African nation.
Image Credit: Fox NewsEthiopian Co-pilot Threatened to "Crash Plane" if Pilot Regained Control by Jaan