An Ethiopian plane headed for Rome was hijacked by its co-pilot on Feb. 19 and brought to Geneva in hopes of receiving asylum.
The co-pilot reportedly took control of the air craft when the pilot went to the bathroom, allowing the co-pilot to lock himself in the cockpit.
Passengers were not notified immediately of the change of control, but a passenger on the flight stated that the pilot came over the loudspeaker and threatened to “crash the airplane.”
Reportedly, oxygen masks dropped from the ceilings and passengers reported “that it seemed like it was falling from the sky.”
After arriving in Geneva, the plane hovered for 90 minutes as the co-pilot demanded asylum from the tower. The plane landed when fuel began to run dangerously low. After landing, the co-pilot reportedly exited the cockpit window using a rope and turned himself in.
The Ethiopian pilot is currently jailed in Cuba and seeking a U.S. plea deal.
But this co-pilot is not the first to change the travel plans of all its guests. Many pilots who have been unhappy with their current living situation have attempted to land in a different country than planned. A Chinese pilot in 1988 also hijacked the plane he was piloting and flew to Taiwan.
The typical prison sentence facing any pilot who wants to take a unapproved “vacation” is up to 20 years.
Despite the seemingly extreme nature of this punishment, the reality of hijacking a plane is extremely dangerous. The nature of this hijacking ended well, but this isn’t always the case.
On Feb. 7 a passenger on a plane claimed that there was a bomb on the plane and that the flight must be diverted to Sochi. The crew on the plane sent a hijacking alert to the Turkish air force and Pegasus Airlines, rather than listen to the threat, had the plane land in Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport.
These two recents hijackings will likely contribute to the growing fear that accompanies passengers as it becomes harder to trust your fellow passengers and the very pilots.