Eagle Airways Flight 2279
British Aerospace Jetstream 32EP ZK-ECN
|Date||8 February 2008|
|Site||Christchurch International Airport, New Zealand|
|Aircraft type||British Aerospace Jetstream|
|Operator||Eagle Airways / Air National|
|Flight origin||Woodbourne Airport, Blenheim, New Zealand|
|Destination||Christchurch International Airport, Christchurch, New Zealand|
|Passengers||7 (including hijacker)|
|Part of a series on|
|Terrorism in New Zealand|
Eagle Airways Flight 2279 was a commuter flight operated by Air National on behalf of Eagle Airways, a regional carrier division of Air New Zealand. The flight was the subject of an unsuccessful hijack attempt on 8 February 2008 during which both pilots and a passenger suffered knife wounds.
Ten minutes after takeoff from Woodbourne Airport in Blenheim, at about 7:40 a.m., Asha Ali Abdille attacked both of the pilots and demanded the plane be flown to Australia. One pilot was cut in the arm, the other in the leg. Abdille also tried to wrestle the controls from the pilot. There were six other passengers (four New Zealanders, one Australian and one Indian) on board. One female passenger was also injured. The copilot managed to restrain Abdille eventually. Abdille also claimed to have two bombs on board, but no explosives were found. The plane landed safely at Christchurch International Airport at 8:06 a.m.
There were fears among the New Zealand Somali community that they would be branded terrorists. The government quickly stated "the government will not tolerate any racial or religious intolerance".
On 1 March 2005, the then-Immigration Minister Paul Swain was questioned in Parliament regarding unrelated incidents whether he was confident that Abdille "is not a threat to the New Zealand community". The minister answered in the affirmative.
Abdille was charged with one count of attempted hijacking, one count of wounding one of the pilots with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and two counts of injuring with intent. She was remanded for a psychiatric report.
On 22 February 2008, Abdille was charged in the Christchurch District Court with a further 11 charges, including threatening to kill, possessing an offensive weapon, and taking a dangerous weapon onto an aircraft. At her trial in 2010 where she was represented by prominent human rights and criminal Barrister Antony Shaw, Abdille pleaded guilty to the charge of attempting to hijack an aircraft, and was sentenced to 9 years in jail.
Christchurch International Airport was evacuated after the incident. Among those caught up were Transport Minister Annette King, Transport Safety Minister Harry Duynhoven and the England Cricket Team. This incident prompted a review of aviation security in New Zealand. Released on 23 April 2009, it found domestic flights of fewer than 90 seats with unscreened passengers and carry-on baggage were a high-risk situation.
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- "Captain thankful of co-pilot's skills during mid-air drama". Fairfax New Zealand. 9 February 2008. Retrieved 10 February 2008.
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- "Minister reassures Somali community". Scoop. 8 February 2008. Retrieved 9 February 2008.
- "Update: African woman held in NZ hijack". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 9 February 2008.
- "Close Up on 8 February". Television New Zealand. 8 February 2008. Retrieved 9 February 2008.
- Hansard 1 March 2005
- Hartevelt, John (9 February 2008). "Hijack accused to get psychiatric evaluation". Fairfax New Zealand. Archived from the original on 9 February 2008. Retrieved 9 February 2008.
- Abdille trial begins today, archived from the original on 28 September 2011, retrieved 28 June 2010
- Martin van Beynen (14 July 2010). "Blenheim woman admits hijacking". The Press. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
- "Plane hijacker jailed for nine years". Television New Zealand. 27 August 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
- "Pilots stabbed in New Zealand plane hijack attempt". Channel 4. 8 February 2008. Retrieved 9 February 2008.
- "Domestic flight prices may rise as security beefed up". The New Zealand Herald. 23 April 2009. Retrieved 23 April 2009.