By Girmay niguse
Tigrai Onlne - March 21, 2014
When reading the news online about a hijacking of an Ethiopian airline headed from Addis Ababa to Rome, I was shocked by the fact that the copilot rerouted the plane to Geneva, Switzerland. As the copilot, Hailemedhin Abera Tegegn waited until the captain took his scheduled bathroom break, and then locked himself inside the cockpit. All this transpired while the passengers from Rome (mostly Italian nationals) had no idea what was going on with the individuals trusted to fly their plane safely back to their home. Tegegn spoke with officials at the Geneva airport trying to secure and ensure a favorable landing reception in Switzerland. He was waiting for them to approve his asylum in their country before he landed the plane. He told them he would be coming out via the airplane window, no doubt because he did not want to face angry Italian passengers who had been delayed by his maneuver.
People speculated what might have been the reason why this 31-year-old co- pilot, who had been flying for Ethiopian Airlines for five years, would attempt such an outlandish escape attempt from his own country. Reporters told Geneva police that Hailemedhin abera requested asylum in Geneva for fear of persecution in his own country. In fact, in the first half of 2013, thousands of people sought asylum from Ethiopia. However, the Ethiopian government says that according to Article 32 of the Ethiopian Constitution, the government guarantees that any Ethiopian citizen may leave the country at any time and is not prevented from doing so. As an Ethiopian born man, clarification and education concerning how the majority of Ethiopian citizens react to this is essential.
The Ethiopian government was mortified by this co-pilot’s actions and called them “gross betrayal of trust.” They immediately sent their sincerest and deepest apologies to all concerned individuals on their plane. As a former Ethiopian citizen, his irrational behavior was not the actions of an insane man, it was the actions of an immature one. He decided to put innocent people, some even in high ranking positions, into a place of grave danger. He was acting selfishly and not as the majority of Ethiopian citizens would behave. They are attempting to say he was insane, but he could not have been so. Otherwise, he would not have had the intelligence to know to land in Geneva where asylum could be given. If he was not of sane mind and just wanted to hijack the plane, he could have landed anywhere. However, he knew if he landed anywhere else in Europe or America, he would be given back to his home country without reservation. In Geneva, he was safe from extradition, but he didn’t care about the safety of anyone else. He knew that if he was forced by another extremist to leave and give up his former promising successful career, he could never go back to it. He would immediately be sent to jail for betraying his country and using others as hostages; there he would live out his life in jail.
In order to educate and solve this problem with pilots and co-pilots, like the one where the Malaysian airline has disappeared, we need to have the airline personnel know each other before they fly a plane and put passengers at risk. People are afraid to fly internationally now with all these crazy hijackers since 911 and people want to know who is transporting them safely to their destination. In the past, the pilot used to identify himself when the plane was taxiing down the runway, before takeoff. Now, even the pilots don’t know one another, so there could definitely be trouble again. As passengers concerned for our own safety and lives of our co-passengers, do we have to get to the point where when we board, we must each go up to the cockpit to find out who is flying the plane. Is this what we must do, in order to insure our own safety from a self-centered copilot bent on using what he considers his own plane to join in his flight plan? Let’s hope that all pilots think of their passengers and crew in the future instead of their own selfish needs and this will be the last and least bothersome flight coming from my homeland.