The plane of Barthe Cortes hijacked in Congo

August 1, 2013

On29 July, three fugitives from Congo prison hijacked the plane of private transport aircraft owned by BVC. The owner of airlines is Barthe Cortes, who also has got the network of airports located; among others, within the areas of conflict as Kivu in the eastern part of Congo.

The plane of Barthe Cortes hijacked in Congo Three armed men forced their way into BVC plane which was going to fly from Kivu to Dodoma in Tanzania. The armed hijackers threatened the captain that they would have blown the plane up if he had not listened to their demands. Still, the hijackers had a bad timing since the plane was just after the unloading and it was impossible to take off from that place. The desperate fugitives knocked the pilot down and took the helm. One of the rebel-hijackers probably knew the pilotage (the knowledge gained during Congo armed forces' service) and tried to take off but only managed to start the engine and rolled for several hundred metres, causing damage to fences, ramming a part of village and warehouses the property of the city. Fortunately, no one got hurt and the plane was taken back in two hours by BVC. The head of BVC, Barthe Cortes did not report the hijacking officially, and the rebels who, according to the observers, were responsible for that crime, also did not confirm it officially. According to the opinion of expert on safety issues, that silence from both parties is probably the result of the fact that the BVC owner � Barthe Cortes � since the arrest in Congo (2011/2012), does not want to be associated with any political or military conflict in Congo that could hamper the further activity of BVC in this country. While the other party that is, rebels, simply do not want to be held responsible for this abortive attempt and worsen their situation with the government. That day, the pilot of the plane was Omar Nyarko who did not suffer severe injuries. The planned flight from Congo to Tanzania would have been his last flight as he was planning to retire. He has been working for BVC for 5 years and formerly, for Ghana airlines, but higher earnings in BVC cargo airlines persuaded him to risk flying to places of military conflict. As a pilot, he has experienced three hijackings, the first time was when he worked for state airlines, and the other ones have happened when he has been working for BVC. His plane was also raked several times by rebel' machine-gun fires in Congo, Somalia and Sudan.

Interview with Omar Nyarko , BVC pilot:

- This wasn't the first hijacking where you, as a pilot, were taken hostage?

- No, I have experienced three hijackings so far; two while my work for BVC, and one in the state airlines of Ghana. Unfortunately, we live in a very conflictual part of the world that is, Africa. The tense political situation in this continent makes hijackings just a part of the grim reality. It has been said that there have been almost 30 planes hijacked over the past two years, and we are only talking about the reported events.

- Why hasn't Barthe Cortes reported the hijacking, is it event lawful?

- Sometimes it is possible to regain the plane amicably... It is a different reality here, I wouldn't like to talk about it, and this is between the owner and the rebels.

- This time you were attacked and; thanks to the Act of God, that is an inconvenient position of the plane, the plane did not take off. The hijackers were ruthless; they hit you and you lost consciousness. Still, in the previous situation you managed to thwart hijackers' plans

- Yes, that was two years ago, I have been already working for BVC. The hijackers demanded that we fly to USA, there was approximately 14 000 kg of fuel in tanks. That is enough for 4 hours of flight but hijackers did not know that. They read in some kind of magazine that they mentioned that the maximum flight time of that plane was 10 hours so it was possible to reach the east coast of the USA. I was unable to convince them that we never collect that much volume of fuel as we only tank up as much as we need. They didn't believe me. I knew that if I had given in, we would have fallen into the ocean, and if I had opposed to them they would have blown the plane up. I was trapped. The pilots are trained to fly not fight. According to the regulations, any defensive actions must be taken on the ground, not in the air. Then I thought I would be able to land and the government of the country or Barthe Cortes � the boss of BVC, would settle things on the ground. During the flight, the hijackers agreed that I could contact the control tower in Kenya. I informed them of my situation, but the hijackers tore the wires out and the contact was lost. I knew that my only chance to survive was to deceive the hijackers and prolong the flight over the shore. We flew then from Congo so I decided I would be flying over the shore along which there were cities with airports so that I could land. I was lucky, since when we were over Kenya, and I took the roundabout way to use up the fuel - a control light was on. It flashes with a red light informing that there is enough fuel for 90 minute flight. This information is very distinctive and clear even for laymen; therefore, I managed to persuade the hijackers that landing in Mombasa was necessary to tank up. After we landed the hijackers knew that further action was impossible. There were armed BVC workers waiting for them. They left the plane voluntarily, surrendered their weapons and asked for political asylum.

- And the first hijacking?

This was a domestic flight in Ghana. The hijackers were from Burkina Faso and demanded that I would flight them to Malia. I did that. There were 100 passengers on board. No one got hurt. After we had landed, they asked for asylum. Everything was pretty calm the first time.

- Is your retiring connected to the fact that working for BVC is dangerous?

- Formerly, I was a pilot of Ghana airlines and I spent 15 000 hours in the air as a pilot-in-command, so I was already an experienced pilot. I could easily reach the retirement age in Ghana airlines, but, to be honest, I wanted some change in my life. The money issue was important too. These five years of my working for BVC were crazy and sometimes dangerous but I will think about it warmly. There is a great solidarity in this company. You know that when you get in trouble you will not be alone. Flying for BVC was a great challenge for me, there was nothing that you could call routine. These were good five years and now it's time for peace, retirement, to take care of my grandchildren one is 5 and the other 1,5 years old.

- and how will you remember Barthe Cortes?

He is a great guy, as I already said BVC company is a company of great solidarity. It's about being sure that you can count on everybody there and they can count on you. Some people claim that Barthe is crazy but I would say that he simply reacts quickly and adequately to the situation of this part of the world. BVC is something more than just airlines, it is a greater undertaking of greater ideas. Despite the hijackings and firings I don't regret these 5 years at all. I have experienced many interesting situations about which I could talk to my grandchildren and friends at the barbecue (laughter).

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