ANKARA, Turkey – A Ukrainian man tried to hijack a Turkey-bound flight to Sochi, Russia, as the Winter Olympics were kicking off Friday, but the pilot tricked him and landed in Istanbul instead, where he was stealthily detained after a four-hour stand-off on a plane full of passengers, an official said.
A Turkish F-16 fighter was scrambled as soon as the pilot on the Pegasus Airlines flight from Kharkiv, Ukraine, with 110 passengers aboard signaled there was a hijacking attempt, according to NTV television. It escorted the plane safely to its original destination at Sabiha Gokcen airport in Istanbul.
Officials credited the pilot and crew for convincing the 45-year-old-man, who claimed he had a bomb, that they were following his wishes.
“Through a very successful implementation by our pilot and crew, the plane was landed in Istanbul instead of Sochi,” Istanbul governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu told reporters at the airport. “He thought it was going to Sochi but after a while he realized that (the plane) was in Istanbul.”
He said the suspected hijacker was arrested after a stand-off during which a negotiator convinced him to first allow women and children to be evacuated and later agreed to let all other passengers off the plane as well.
No bomb was found, he said.
The man’s motive was unclear. Mutlu said there was no immediate indication that he was a member of any terror organization.