EgyptAir Flight Hijacking: Flight of Fancy

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The hijacking of an EgyptAir flight that turned out to be a comedy of errors

WHEN NEWS EMERGED of a plane being diverted from Alexandria in Egypt to Larnaca in Cyprus on Tuesday, it had all the makings of another dreary Middle Eastern terror incident.

Barely six hours later, it was all over. In pathetic TV shots, one could see the lone hijacker, Seif Eldin Mustafa from Egypt, trying to escape from a cockpit window. He was, of course, arrested. Mustafa, later described as a mentally unstable person, had put forth demands such as the release of female prisoners in Egypt, among other vague conditions that kept hostage negotiators busy for a while. He later released most passengers who were on the plane. Another version has it that he diverted the plane to meet his ex-wife who lived in Cyprus.

But that was not the end of this comedy of errors. The plane’s pilot reacted in a way prescribed by the standard operating procedure for such situations when Mustafa told him that he was wearing a jacket full of explosives which were only mobile phone covers.

It is another matter that the hijacker was given the full pat down treatment in Alexandria and that the lack of faith in Egyptian aviation security was misplaced.

Even as the world was watching all this with bated breath, a British passenger Ben Innes wanted a photograph with the hijacker and an obliging air hostess did the honours. Innes later posted the picture on social media with this message: ‘You know your boy doesn’t f*** about. Turn on the news lad!!!’

What makes this incident bizarre is that it could occur in the first place. Even as the event was unfolding, ‘experts’ on TV were prognosticating about the lack of intelligence sharing between different countries and the lax security standards at many airports. None of these proved true. The security was fine as were all the other procedures.

It was a fluke—a pilot doing what he was trained to do and the blind luck of a crazy person—that allowed the hijack to proceed. Even in these times of mechanical action, adventure is not dead.