The Swiss Air Force didn’t respond to a hijacking over their airspace Monday because it happened outside normal business hours.

The Ethiopian Airlines 767 co-pilot hijacked his own flight while en route from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Rome, and instead flew it to Geneva seeking asylum, according to ATA. But Swiss fighter jets were grounded throughout the entire incident because of “budget and staffing” concerns.

The Swiss Air Force let the French and Italians respond to a hijacked plane for them (Defense Industry Daily).

The Swiss Air Force let the French and Italians respond to a hijacked plane for them (Defense Industry Daily).

The co-pilot on flight ET-702 locked himself in the cockpit while the pilot went to the bathroom and announced a hijacking, Italian and French fighter jets were scrambled to escort the plane through their respective airspaces, reported Agence France Presse:

(Though) the co-pilot-turned-hijacker quickly announced he wanted to land the plane in Switzerland, where he later said he aimed to seek asylum, Switzerland’s fleet of F-18s and F-5 Tigers remained on the ground, Swiss airforce spokesman Laurent Savary told AFP.

This, he explained, was because the Swiss airforce is only available during office hours. These are reported to be from 8am until noon, then 1:30 to 5pm.

“Switzerland cannot intervene because its airbases are closed at night and on the weekend,” he said, adding: “It’s a question of budget and staffing.”

By contrast, the United States has 16 Aerospace Control Alert (ACA) facilities, all operated by the Air National Guard and operationally controlled for emergency responses by NORAD. These sites keep fighter aircraft on alert status – with weapons loaded, 24 hours a day – to answer aerial threats.

Weapons loaders from the 113 conduct pre-flight armament procedures on an F-16 during an exercise in 2011. The pilots and maintainers keep the jets in alert status when they are tapped for the Aerospace Control Alert mission (U.S. Air Force).

Weapons loaders from the 113 conduct pre-flight armament procedures on an F-16 during an exercise in 2011. The pilots and maintainers keep the jets in alert status when they are tapped for the Aerospace Control Alert mission (U.S. Air Force).

“Situations like this remind us why it’s important to have the assets ready to respond,” Brigadier General Sasseville, 113th Wing commander, told TheBlaze.

His wing, dubbed the “Capitol Guardians,” are stationed just a few miles outside of Washington, D.C. The Airmen keep at least two jets fueled up and ready to launch within mere seconds of an alert call. But political pressure has fallen upon U.S. forces to reduce the number of alert ACA sites, which would ultimately increase response times for an aerial threat.

“We conduct this mission to be able to respond 24/7, 365 … and we think that’s an appropriate posture for the foreseeable future.”

(H/T: Yahoo News)

Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter.

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