SWISS fighter jets could not be scrambled when a hijacked Ethiopian passenger plane entered the country’s airspace as its air force only works daytime hours.
The country’s jets remained grounded throughout the entire drama because it happened outside normal office hours.
Instead, Italian Eurofighters escorted the plane with 202 passengers and crew on board to the Swiss border, where French mirage jets accompanied it to Geneva airport on Monday morning.
Switzerland’s air force chiefs were alerted to the drama at 4.30am, but did nothing because they do not start work until 8am.
Swiss airforce spokesman Laurent Savary said: “Switzerland cannot intervene because its airbases are closed at night and at the weekends. It’s a question of budget and staffing.”
Ethiopian Airlines flight ET702 from Addis Ababa to Rome was hijacked by its own co-pilot Hailemedehin Abera Tagegn, 31, who locked himself in the cockpit while the captain went to the loo.
He then threatened to crash the plane unless he was given permission to land in Geneva where he wanted to claim asylum.When the plane touched down at 6am, Geneva police arrested Tagegn after he scaled down a rope out of the cockpit window.
Prosecutors have described the chances of his asylum demands being met as ‘slim’, and he now faces a 20-year prison sentence.
Audio was allegedly recorded of the hijacker by Twitter user @matthewkeyslive.In it he says:
"We need asylum or assurance that we will not be transferred to the Ethiopian government."