New Zealand pilots receive bravery awards for foiling airliner hijack

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations (IFALPA) has awarded two New Zealand pilots with the Polaris Award for their bravery in landing their plane during an attempted hijacking and then confronting the alleged hijacker.

Pilot Dion McMillan and co-pilot Ross Haverfield were given the awards at an IFALPA conference in Auckland today. They were flying over New Zealand's South Island in February 2008 when the incident took place. A woman armed with a knife said she had two bombs in her luggage and told them to fly to Australia.

McMillan issued a mayday call advising air traffic control of the situation and the pilots performed an emergency landing at Christchurch International Airport. McMillan and Haverfield then waited until the passengers had disembarked before confronting the woman, who had already stabbed one passenger.

A fight broke out in which Haverfield was stabbed in the foot and McMillan's hand was stabbed so badly he was off work for several months. Asha Ali Abdille, a 33-year-old Somali woman living in New Zealand, was subsequently arrested. Her trial is pending and will begin in September.

McMillan accepted Haverfield's award on his behalf, the co-pilot not attending the black tie dinner at Auckland's SkyCity Convention Centre, which was put on as part of an IFALPA convention lasting a week. He could say very little about the event due to the pending court action, but he did say of his hand "The movement's good but there's still not much feeling left."


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