Italian and French jets escorted hijacked plane because Swiss AF was outside working hours

Italian Eurofighter Typhoons escorted the hijacked plane and handed over to the French Air Force because the Swiss Air Force was outside working hours.

On Feb. 17, an Ethiopian Boeing 767 from Addis Abeba to Rome Fiumicino was hijacked by the copilot while the pilot was in the toilet, and eventually landed at Geneva airport.

The aircraft, flying as ET 702 was escorted on its route by two Eurofighter Typhoons of the 36° Stormo on QRA (Quick Reaction Alert).

The two F-2000s (this is the designation of the Typhoon within the Italian Air Force) were scrambled  from Gioia del Colle, in Southeastern Italy, where 36° Stormo’s 12° and 10° Gruppo (Squadron) are based. Once in the air within the standard 15-minute timeframe, the two armed fighter jets headed westbound, vectored by the Air Defense Radar to intercept the hijacked plane.

The two Typhoons reached the Boeing 767 off Sicily, identified and shadowed it along its way across the Italian airspace.

When the Ethiopian flight reached the boundaries of the French airspace it was handed over to the French Air Force. whose Mirage fighter jets escorted it until landing in Geneva: noteworthy, the hijacked liner was accompanied until landing by the French jets because instead of Swiss interceptors because the entire interception took place early in the morning, outside the working hours (08.00 – 12 and 13.30 – 17.00) of the Swiss F-18 Hornets!

If you plan to attack Switzerland, opt for non-working hours.

Image credit: Eurofighter


Enhanced by Zemanta
About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. I can confirm that we Swiss normally are only open during working hours. (Except WEF and other events). If there is an announced guest (political leader visiting etc.) we will work outside working hours. The current budget allocated for the SAF is not enough for round the clock standby jets (only air force radar surveillance is round the clock). Our fleet of Hornets is also “theoretically” too small 24 hour standby. (Tigers are slowly on their way out). The addition of the grippen would make it possible (plans are to have 24 hours jets standing by before 2020). Sad reality is that a big part of Swiss people don’t see the need for round the clock surveillance…

      • More important than ever. I’m not sure if they have their military priorities right, but to jettison an army when no obvious enemy is in sight is suicidal for any independent country.

        • Hmmm, unlike the Swiss, Canada doesn’t have working hours for her AF. We also protect North America 24/7. The RCAF helps police America’s air space too in Alaska and in the Atlantic. I’d say it is pretty huge and we need a military. Switzerland? Not so much. When was the last time they used their jets in any combat to help humanity?

      • Are you serious? My dear transatlantic friends. Take a map of the world. Find Europe. (Need help?) find Switzerland. (Good luck). Find Geneva (hint: it’s on the right side). Now find the airport.(Got it?) . Ooh wow, the runway of Geneva Airport is right next to the french border (in terms of flight time). The Swiss Airforce could not even have accompanied the plane as it entered swiss airspace coming from France as the jets would have entered french airspace ( which is probably possible) but then , french jets can accompany the plane until touchdown….also

    • Hopefully no one ever crashes into one of your cities. I wouldnt wish that on anyone. Complacency is as deadly as neutrality is protective.

    • It doesn’t match Swiss official military policy (always ready) but in that case, the plane spend less than a minute in Swiss airspace: Geneva is right the frontier. I can’t imagine any of Swiss neighbours letting anything significant happen.

  2. Swiss Air Force has to reconsider its ridiculous office hours, but there is a second aspect to the story: Geneva is more or less an exclave, surrounded by France. Save for a narrow strip of land just next to the airport (2000 m) there is no land bridge to Switzerland. So French and Swiss Air Forces have to work together in the Geneva region…

  3. Beside hijacked planes you really need air policing to intercept any aircraft that crosses the airspace with no radio contact as some times happen with great risk to traffic. Many times even civil planes are asked to watch for airplanes in their vicinity that pop up on the radar without any notice often well out of their intended flight plan.

    Some years ago we hosted Patrouille Swiss and at dinner one pilot described me the interception of a German tourist with his private plane that was crossing Switzerland without any radio contact at all. They aaproched the small plane and moved almost at stall speed on the right and left flying parallel at same level and close distance. The German pilot almost had an heart attack when he saw the fighter jets and finally decided to use the radio.

    Is just incredible that there is no 24h air policing in Switzerland at the moment.

Comments are closed.