MIAMI — Ethiopian Airlines flight 702 was flying over Sudan when it started squawking 7500 early Monday morning. When an aircraft squawks 7500, it indicates that a “hijacking” is taking place.
Ethiopian Airlines flight 702 was operating from Addis Abba to Rome when it started squawking 7500. Flight 702 was being operated by ET-AMF, a Boeing 767-300ER.
The aircraft circled around Geneva Airport (GVA) for quite a while. Repeatedly, “asylum” was requested.
The aircraft was provided a military escort, and emergency crews were standing by at Geneva Airport ready to meet the aircraft.
As the event continued to unfold, it became known that the aircraft was low on fuel (at 11:45PM EST, the aircraft had approximately 20 minutes of fuel remaining). Also according to audio on LiveATC, there were unconfirmed reports of an engine potentially flaming out.
Shortly after 12:00AM EST, Ethiopian Airlines flight 702 landed safely on Runway 05L at Geneva Airport. There were no asylum assurances given prior to the aircraft landing.
After landing, the aircraft taxied to the end of the runway, and there were several unconfirmed reports that the pilots exited the aircraft through the cockpit windows.
Airspace and the airport around Geneva Airport has been closed as negotiations are currently underway. However, GVA Tower says they “currently plan on reopening at 7:00AM LT.” Although, the tower did not have full visual contact with Ethiopian 702, they planned to open the aircraft at 7:00AM LT.
Shortly after the incident, Ethiopian Airlines released the following statement:
Ethiopian Airlines flight ET-702 on scheduled service departing from Addis Ababa on 17 February 2014 at 00:30 (local time) scheduled to arrive in Rome at 04:40 (local time) was forced to proceed to Geneva Airport. Accordingly, the flight has landed safely at Geneva Airport. All passengers and crew are safe at Geneva Airport.
Ethiopian Airlines is making immediate arrangements to fly its esteemed customers on-board the flight to their intended destinations.
In 1996, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961 flying the Addis Ababa – Nairobi leg of a scheduled Bombay (BOM) – Addis Ababa (ADD) – Nairobi (NBO) – Brazzaville (BZV) – Lagos (LOS) – Abdijan (ABJ) routing was hijacked in mid-air by three Ethiopians seeking asylum in Australia.
The aircraft crash landed near Comoros in the the Indian Ocean due to fuel starvation. 125 of the 175 passengers on board died. It was the deadliest aircraft hijacking in history (prior to 9/11) and the first true water landing with survivors for a widebody aircraft.
The local police quickly began negotiations with the hijacker, and within 30 minutes, Geneva Airport police said that the hijacker was arrested and that the “situation [is] under control.”
A press conference was held at 9:00 am local time. Shortly after, we learned that a pilot from the aircraft had been arrested. This pilot was reportedly seeking asylum, which has been corroborated by audio from the ATC tower.
Geneva Police say that the other pilot disembarked, and he locked himself into the cockpit. He was unarmed. He asked to land at Geneva at 4:00 am for refueling before actually touching down at 6:02 am.
“I will be coming out via the window,” the co-pilot told the control tower. He then escaped through the cockpit window using a rope, and surrendered to police, Brandt said.
“His act has been motivated by the fact that he feels threatened in his county and wants to make an asylum claim in Switzerland,” Swiss police spokesman Philippe Grangean said.
The passengers were not threatened or put in danger, police said.
The hijacker will reportedly face up to 20 years in prison and will be prosecuted in either Geneva or Bern.