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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

AirAsia flight: To pray or not to pray?

Those in the industry are divided over former minister Zaid Ibrahim's criticism of AirAsia X pilot who asked passengers to pray for a plane's safe landing.
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PETALING JAYA: A veteran pilot has thrown his weight behind Zaid Ibrahim, who recently came under fire for his comments on the pilot of a troubled AirAsia flight who asked passengers to pray for the plane’s safe landing.
The pilot, who only wanted to be known as Adrian, told FMT that the AirAsia captain could have done a better job to reassure passengers instead.
He said it was inappropriate to ask people to pray as this could create unnecessary panic.
“There is no doubt that the AirAsia pilot did an excellent job in landing the aircraft, but I feel there was no need to ask people to pray. So I believe Zaid is right on the mark.”
Social media users however have not taken kindly to Zaid’s remarks on the events surrounding AirAsia X flight D7237, which left Perth, Western Australia, at 6.50am on Sunday. It was heading to Kuala Lumpur but returned to Perth shortly after take-off.
An explosion reportedly occurred on the left engine as one of the fans on the turbine had broken off. The plane turned back to Perth and landed safely.
However, many passengers were surprised by the flight captain telling them to pray that the plane could be landed safely back in Perth.
Zaid, a former federal minister, said pilots should give passengers hope. He also criticised AirAsia, saying the airline should engage a proper imam if it was “big into prayers”.
No reason to create panic
Adrian, who has been flying for over 30 years, explained that the AirAsia plane – an Airbus A330 aircraft – was capable of flying with one engine, as most commercial aircraft were able to as well.
This means that even if an engine had problems and needed to be switched off, the plane could still fly with another engine and land.
“Normally, pilots will explain the problem in general and we’ll reassure passengers that the plane can be landed safely, because creating unnecessary panic will only make things more difficult.”
He added that a pilot would usually say: “We are having technical issues with one of the engines. As a precautionary measure, we will turn back for a precautionary landing. The plane is fully flyable with one engine. Please follow the directions of the cabin crew.”
He said he would also provide the passengers with an estimated time of landing.
“We should inform them in general about the issues, but pilots know the capabilities of the plane and we are trained for situations like this. If we ask people to pray, it would create panic.
“All you need is one or two passengers who panic and everyone else could follow suit, and the last thing the crew needs is for 200 people to panic. It doesn’t help the situation.”
No harm in asking people to pray
However, a former adviser to the Malaysia Airlines System Employees Union (Maseu), Mohd Jabarullah Abdul Kadir, disagreed with Zaid’s remarks, saying the pilot’s request for passengers to pray shouldn’t be viewed so negatively.
“Whether the pilot asks people to pray or not, they will still pray and generally, they will panic,” he told FMT.
“I don’t believe that asking people to pray means he believes the worst will happen. It’s just that some passengers may feel more at peace when they pray.”
For Lancelot Rodrigues, a former senior flight attendant, there was no harm in the pilot asking the passengers to pray.
“For the passengers, when the plane has to turn back, some of them might already feel that there is a reason for them to say a prayer, and this is normal.
“Even when I was flying, before every flight, I would ask my crew to say a prayer for a safe journey, regardless of which faith they belonged to, so I don’t believe it’s anything out of the ordinary.”
Rodrigues said for some people, praying made them feel safer, so the pilot’s request for them to pray shouldn’t be viewed as if the plane was going to crash.
“I think the pilot was just thinking of the passengers’ concerns when he asked them to pray. Maybe he felt that was how the passengers would cope anyway, so I think it’s alright.”
It was reported earlier today that it would take months for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) to discover why the AirAsia X flight was forced to turn back to Perth.
AirAsia said it had started conducting an investigation together with its engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce. It is also cooperating with the ATSB probe. -FMT

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