Swiss Fighter Jets Grounded Since Ethiopian Hijacking Occurred Outside Business Hours

Weekends and nights, the rich Alpine state relies on France for air defense

  • Share
  • Read Later
Fabrice Coffrini / AFP / Getty Images

A F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft of the Swiss Air Force is seen in front of a church on February 20, 2013 at Payerne airport.

When an Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot hijacked a plane early Monday and forced it to land in Geneva, no Swiss fighter jets were scrambled to escort the aircraft, since the incident happened outside business hours, which reportedly run from 8 am until noon, then 1.30 to 5 pm.

“Switzerland cannot intervene because its airbases are closed at night and on the weekend,” Swiss airforce spokesman Laurent Savary told AFP. “It’s a question of budgeting and staffing.”

There are plans to make air force coverage round-the-clock, but they depend on whether the Alpine population will approve the replacement of their old American jets with new Swedish ones in an upcoming referendum.

Until then, Savary says that Switzerland is getting airborne policing help from its neighbors, mainly France.