Incident: Ethiopian B763 near Khartoum on Feb 17th 2014, aircraft hijacked to Geneva by first officer

ethiopeanAn Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767-300, registration ET-AMF performing flight ET-702 from Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) to Rome Fiumicino (Italy) with 202 passengers, was enroute to Rome estimated to land at Fiumicino Airport at 04:40L (03:40Z) when the F/O diverted the aircraft to Geneva (Switzerland) located about 380nm northnorthwest of Rome, the crew activated the transponder code for unlawful interference while enroute at FL360 almost over Khartoum (Sudan) at 01:51L (22:51Z Feb 16th). While the aircraft flew straight towards Geneva the airport of Geneva was closed with a number of flights scheduled to land in Genevea needing to divert to Zurich (Switzerland), security and emergency services prepared for the arrival of the aircraft, fighter aircraft were dispatched to accompany the aircraft to landing. On approach to Geneva the aircraft entered a hold at 7000 feet for about 30 minutes before landing safely on Geneva’s runway 05 at about 06:02L (05:02Z). The first officer used the cockpit escape rope to leave the cockpit via the cockpit window.

The hijacker was arrested, the passengers and aircraft searched, and the airport reopened at 08:15L (07:15Z). The occupants of flight ET-702 received medical and psychological assistance.

The airline confirmed everybody on board of the aircraft is safe.

Authorities in Geneva reported at about 09:00L (08:00Z) in a press conference, that the aircraft had been hijacked by the first officer (34) while the aircraft was overflying the Sudan, the first officer had locked the captain out of the cockpit. The first officer felt threatened in his home country and requested political asylum in Switzerland.

Ethiopian Authorities earlier had reported that the aircraft had a scheduled intermediate landing in Khartoum (Sudan), it is being supposed the hijacker(s) had boarded the aircraft in Khartoum, the number and intentions of the hijackers were unknown.

Radar data show the aircraft overflew but did not land in Khartoum, the flight plan shows a direct flight from Addis Ababa to Rome.

Radio communication recordings of Geneva approach frequency reveal that the first officer requested asylum reporting on approach frequency with 35 minutes of fuel remaining, was offered several times to join the localizer and land at Geneva however delayed landing waiting for response by Swiss Authorities. The approach controller convinced the first officer to join a right hand holding pattern at the final approach fix on the localizer for runway 05, the controller repeatedly telling the first officer that they were trying their best to wake officials up and get a response. Finally the controller told the first officer that they had somebody on the phone and were talking to him not yet having a final response offering the aircraft could join the glideslope, the response would be provided while on short final, to which the first officer agreed. On a 7nm final the first officer requested a 360 stating he was promised a reply on short final. In the end the controller cleared the aircraft to land on runway 05, the reply would be provided on very short final. The aircraft landed about 5 minutes later without a reply, about 31 minutes after reporting on approach frequency. On request by approach control the aircraft taxied to the end of the runway and stopped, the first officer radioed he would now leave the aircraft through the window.