WELLINGTON, New Zealand – A knife-wielding woman tried to hijack a regional domestic flight in New Zealand Friday, stabbing both pilots and threatening to blow up the twin-propeller plane before she was subdued, police said.
The wounded pilots were able to land the plane safety in Christchurch, causing chaos at the popular tourist city’s airport as police and emergency crews rushed onto the tarmac to arrest the suspect, evacuate the six passengers and search the plane for bombs.
The airport was closed for about three hours.
Air New Zealand, the national carrier who operated the flight through a charter company, said it was reviewing security measures nationally following the incident. In New Zealand, passengers and their luggage on short haul flights are not subject to security checks.
Christchurch police Commander Dave Cliff said the 33-year-old woman, originally from Somalia, attacked the pilots about 10 minutes into the flight from the regional city of Blenheim, 40 miles south of the capital of Wellington, to Christchurch, about 220 miles south of the capital.
After the woman had been subdued, the pilots made emergency radio calls reporting that the attacker said there were two bombs aboard the plane, Cliff said.
Army and police bomb squads searched the plane and luggage on, but found no explosives.
During the ordeal, the woman demanded to be flown to Australia — a destination that was beyond the Jetstream aircraft’s range.
The woman, who was not named, was charged with attempted hijacking, wounding and other offenses. She was due to appear in court in Christchurch on Saturday, police said.
The pilot suffered a severely cut hand in the attack, and the co-pilot was injured on the foot, Cliff said. One passenger suffered a minor hand injury caused by the attacker, Cliff said. He did not explain how the woman was subdued.
The passengers included four New Zealanders, an Australian and an Indian national.
“Today’s incident, although a one-off, has naturally given us cause to conduct a thorough review of our safety and security systems and processes on regional domestic flights,” said Air New Zealand’s general manager of short-haul airlines, Bruce Parton.
New Zealand last year adopted legislation allowing armed air marshals on international flights, but only if other nation’s required such measures. There are no marshals on domestic flights.