Tuesday 13 February 2024

Hijacking of TAA flight 004


A university student hijacked a TAA aircraft while in flight to alert people to social injustices.
Mr. Clifford Watego, 27, married, with four children, was charged with the hijacking of TAA flight TN004 from Perth (PER/YPPH) to Melbourne (MEL/YMML) on the 13th of February 1983. The pilots continued to Melbourne Airport, on taxi-in the hijacker, who was on the flight deck told the crew his bomb was on a timer – the aircraft was stopped, and a full evacuation followed. 
The hijacker was subsequently arrested.

During the flight the hijacker demanded the Airbus A300B4-203 VH-TAA (MSN 134) to fly to the Franklin River in southwest Tasmania, where environmentalists demonstrated recently over a proposed hydroelectric plant. The package the man claimed was a bomb turned out to be a piece of electrical equipment, police said. Melbourne Airport was closed to all air traffic during the drama.

The Commonwealth prosecutor, Mr. Mark Pedley, said that Mr. Watego had held his finger over the button of a black box he carried and threatened to blow up the aircraft if he was not taken to the Franklin River. Mr. Watego had told the flight crew that his social actions injustice was necessary to alert the public to social injustice.

Pentridge prison psychologist Dr Alan Batholomew told the court that Mr. Watego had suicidal tendencies. Counsel for Mr. Watego, Mr. Bill Morgan, said his client had been a clerk with the Queensland Department of Aboriginal Welfare in Brisbane for 10 years and had a clean record. 

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