une 9, 2014: For the second time this year a European air force was unable to send a jet fighter into the air to confront an aerial intruder. The latest incident was on May 20th when Russian warplanes entered Finnish air space and while these intruders were detected, there were no pilots available to take up an F-18 fighter to confront the Russians. The reason given was budgetary problems, specifically an overtime cap that made it impossible to have pilots and ground crews available 24/7 to deal with intruders everywhere on Finland’s long border with Russia.
The earlier episode took place in February when Swiss F-18s failed to take off and intercept a hijacked Ethiopian Boeing 767 that was known (for several hours) to be headed their way. Two Italian fighters intercepted and escorted the 767 as it entered Italian air space near Sicily. When the 767 entered French air space on its final approach to Switzerland two French fighters took over and as the airliner entered Swiss air space the French fighters stuck with it. Swiss F-18s would normally take over at this point but, as was later explained, budget cuts and noise rules prevented the Swiss F-18s from taking off. Switzerland already had rules in place that would allow French fighters to enter Swiss air space in such an emergency. However, the French fighters could not fire their weapons without Swiss permission.
I’m sorry, invaders, but our union contract forbids us opposing you at this time. Could you please come back when our four-day work week begins on Tuesday. Between the hours of 9 AM to 3PM, if you please?