INDONESIA: The testimony of the pilot of the last plane out of Palu before the earthquake

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October 2018

(English translation)

“Today the Batik Air pilot, Captain Mafella, visited a  church in Jakarta (Duta Injil BIP) and testified why he speeded up the departure of his flight 3 minutes ahead of the Palu airport schedule set.

He told us that all day Friday he had been feeling unsettled and he didn’t know why. 

To get rid of these feelings of unrest, he loudly sang worship songs the whole way from Ujung Pandang to Palu, (“Usually I only hummed, but that day I wanted to praise the Lord as best I could”, he said). Eventually his Muslim Co-Pilot jokingly suggested, that he make a CD of worship songs. 

When they were about to land at the Palu Airport, the sky was clear but the wind was too strong and he “heard a voice in his heart” telling him to circle again before landing. 

The Palu airport is squeezed between two mountain ranges and it reminded him of  the verse, Psalm 23:4:

“I may walk through valleys as dark as death but I wont be afraid. You are with me and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe.”

According to the Captain, pilots call airports situated between two mountain ranges, “valleys of death,” because they must be extra careful in landing, so Christian pilots hold on to Psalm 23:4.  

A moment after landing successfully, he felt in his heart that he needed to be quick. 

Because of that, he instructed his crew to just take a 20-minute break before the plane was due to return to Jakarta via Ujung Pandang.

He didn’t even leave the cockpit and requested permission from the Control Tower to depart 3 minutes ahead of schedule.

After receiving permission for take-off from the late air controller, Agung, [Anthonius Gunawan Agung] they prepared for take off.

Captain Mafella confessed that at that time he broke flight procedures because he took over the job of the Co-Pilot by speeding up the plane in the process of take off. 

He didn’t know why but his hand kept holding on to the lever causing the plane to speed up as it took off. 

He did not know then that an earthquake had struck Palu but he felt the plane swaying a little to left and right. 

According to him if he had taken off three minutes later, he would not have been able to save the 140 passengers, because the asphalt on the landing strip was moving up and down like a curtain blowing in the wind. 

Several minutes after take-off, he tried to communicate with the tower but there was no response from Agung.

He looked down and saw a strange phenomena. 

The sea water on the coast was forming a very large hole “so that the foundation of the sea bed could be seen.” 

When the plane arrived in Ujung Pandang, he was told that there had been an earthquake and tsunami in Palu and that the official in the control tower who had organised his plane’s take off, had died shortly after he [had stayed back and] had made sure that the plane had taken off safely.

This afternoon before he left to fly to Kuala Lumpur, Captain Mafella emphasized how important it is that we are hear the voice of God. 

And whatever happens we must be calm, not in a panic, so that we can clearly hear the voice of God coming to us by the Holy Spirit – because he added that when he took over the role of the co-pilot to speed up the take off, the co-pilot looked fearful, as the body of the plane was swinging left and right. 

May we take a lesson and a blessing from the testimony of Captain Mafella today.”

 

 

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