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10 APRIL 2024

Friday, June 30, 2017

Praying pilots: I get Zaid Ibrahim

There has been a big ruckus going on in the social media about how right or wrong the pilot of AirAsia flight FL380 was when there was an emergency during the flight and he allegedly requested the passengers to say a prayer for their safety.
Vocal DAP member and former cabinet minister Zaid Ibrahim made a statement saying that the pilot should not have asked the passengers to pray because a pilot needs to keep the situation calm and show that everything is under control.
He subsequently received a slew of criticism in the social media by people who thought that he was insensitive for making such a statement. Many argued that it is alright for the pilot to pray and to also ask the passengers to do so.
AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes has come out in defence of his pilot and said that he is proud and happy with the way Captain Ibrahim Jalaluddin handled the situation. He said that the crew did the right thing and he was glad that all the passengers were brought back safely.
Okay, let’s add the backstory and some context to the issue.
After the plane took off from Perth for Kuala Lumpur, there was a loud bang and the entire aircraft started shaking like a washing machine. The pilot, Captain Ibrahim, made a May Day call to the air traffic control and decided to turn back to Perth.
After that, Captain Ibrahim addressed the passengers, saying that they would be turning back to where they had come from. He also allegedly mentioned that the passengers could pray for their safe landing and he would be doing the same.
All that was reported in the media. And other than having journalists verifying the fact, there is no other way to confirm what was actually said by the pilot. I tried looking for a full recording online, but it yielded no results.
So, let’s just make sure that everyone is aware that all the comments that are being made by all these people, including me in this article, are based on second-hand written and broadcast news reports. Unless, of course, an actual recording of the pilot’s announcement was made available.
In this situation, context is very important as to how the announcement was made by the pilot because that would determine the situation and intentions that he had. Only then can we properly comment if what was said fit the situation or not.
If the pilot sounded like he was panicking, wasn't in control and didn’t know what to do, and he wanted people to pray for their lives, then I would say that he does not have the leadership skills that is needed for a pilot to face such a situation.
That would definitely be wrong because asking people to pray in this situation would be an act of desperation. It would be as if there is nothing can be done and everyone now has to depend on the mercy of God.
But, if the pilot had calmly said that everything is under control and he mentions his plan to turn back and then announces that people who want to can say a prayer and stay calm, then it should be alright. It would just be part of keeping everyone calm.
At the end of the day, when there is an emergency or crisis, people will look for clear leadership that can ensure control and provide calm. So as long as the passengers felt they were in good hands and they felt secure that everything was being done to ensure their safety, then so be it.
Personally, I think that if I were in a plane and it looked like it was about to crash, I would look for a pilot who would not have to rely on desperation. I want someone who knows what he or she is doing. I want a pilot who can be relied on and not someone who needs to rely on others.
Being in Malaysia where the issue of overzealousness when it comes to religion is a topic that is always on the minds of the people, I can understand how an issue like this can become a trending topic of discussion.
But what should really be a matter of concern here is the fact that there was a malfunction in the aircraft, whether it be human or technical error, that could jeopardise the safety of passengers. It would call for a thorough investigation by the airlines and the authorities.

ZAN AZLEE is a writer, documentary filmmaker, journalist and academic. He travels by plane often and usually never bothers to find out if the pilot is religious or not. Visit FATBIDIN.COM to view his work.- Mkini

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