No media has picked up this story yet, but after a failed hijack attempt earlier today, it appears Ethiopian Airlines Flight 702 from Addis Ababa to Rome was successfully hijacked and after circling Geneva for two hours, has landed. Geneva airspace is now closed with incoming flights diverted to nearby airports.
Listen to Geneva ATC here.
Upon landing in Geneva, the Ethiopian pilots were heard on radio stating they will be exiting via the aircraft flight deck window, so it appears that the hijacker(s) never breached the cockpit door.
As the aircraft flew over Sudan early this morning, it began squawking 7500, the code for a hijacking. The flight continued over Italy and circled Geneva before finally landing just moments ago.
More details as they become available–there are rumors on Twitter that the hijacker is simply seeking asylum and did not intend to hurt anyone.. Let’s hope it is that simple.
07:16 CET Update – Press release posted and promptly pulled by ET
19:00 CET Update – The hijacker was the co-pilot and his object was to request asylum in Switzerland, an odd choice considering Switzerland is not an EU member and that voters just passed a referendum restricting immigration. He faces up to 20 years in prison, which some human rights advocates are arguing is better than life in Ethiopia.
The plane was in Italian airspace when the co-pilot, whom the Ethiopian government identified as Hailemedhin Abera Tegegn, a 31-year-old Ethiopian citizen, took the controls after the pilot left the cockpit to use the restroom. After locking the cockpit door, he initially told Italian air controllers that he needed fuel, but then activated a transponder to signal that the plane was being hijacked, Mr. Grandjean said. Italian fighter jets were scrambled, and they escorted the aircraft out of Italian airspace.
The plane landed in Geneva at 6:02 a.m. and continued to a taxiway, where the co-pilot turned off the engines, opened the cockpit window and lowered himself to the tarmac with a rope, officials said. He then ran toward security officers and identified himself as the hijacker, declared that he was in danger in Ethiopia and requested asylum, the officials added…
A Geneva prosecutor, Olivier Jornot, said the co-pilot would be charged with taking hostages, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison, The Associated Press reported. He added that his chances of winning asylum were slim. “Technically, there is no connection between asylum and the fact he committed a crime to come here,” he said, according to The A.P. “But I think his chances are not very high.”