5 Jan 2017

Pilots to keep close eye on hijacker's case

6:00 am on 5 January 2017

Pilots are vowing to keep a close watch on the case of a convicted hijacker whose sentence ends early next month.

Auckland Airport

A file photo of an Air New Zealand plane: Asha Abdille attacked two pilots on one of the airline's regional flights in February 2008. Photo: 123RF

Somali refugee Asha Abdille stabbed both pilots on an Air New Zealand regional flight in February 2008.

Asha Abdille stabbed both pilots on an Air New Zealand flight from Blenheim to Christchurch in February 2008. She was sentenced to nine years jail in 2010.

Asha Abdille Photo: David Hallett / The Press / Fairfax NZ

She will be put on a compulsory treatment order and remain in a forensic unit once her sentence ends.

In a report on a hearing late last year, obtained by RNZ, the Parole Board described the 42-year-old as still high risk, and said she had threatened to hijack another aircraft and set herself on fire.

Air New Zealand has declined to comment on the threats or what it might do about them.

But the Air Line Pilots' Association said any threat to airline security had to be taken very seriously, and it would maintain a "close watch" on the situation.

President Tim Robinson said he was confident health and security authorities would co-operate closely to ensure every measure was taken to protect airlines, their staff and the travelling public.

"The association is assured by reports that Ms Abdille is to be under the compulsory care of the mental health system."

They would work directly with the authorities as appropriate, he said.

The Mental Health Foundation said yesterday there was no cause for alarm, and the mental health system would be capable of handling the situation.

In 2009, the International Air Line Pilots' Federation presented the two pilots in the 2008 attack, Dion McMillan and Ross Haverfield, with bravery awards. Through a spokesperson, Mr McMillan declined to comment about the looming end of Abdille's sentence.

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