PETALING JAYA: The man behind the controversy over the events surrounding AirAsia X flight D7237 from Perth to Kuala Lumpur last Sunday has finally spoken up, saying there was nothing wrong in asking passengers to pray.
In an interview with Berita Harian today, flight captain Ibrahim Jalaluddin said he had relayed a “may day” signal to the Perth air traffic control after the plane suffered a mid-flight incident that damaged the left engine forcing the crew to shut it down.
“When the aircraft was at a normal cruising mode, moving between 38,000 and 40,000 feet, we heard a loud sound like something hitting a metal object.
“I thought we had hit another aircraft, because our plane was swaying left and right.
“Then I realised this was due to the left engine having lost all function. This was also evident when the auto pilot failed to work, because it had been set to turn left but took the aircraft to the right instead,” the Malay daily quoted him as saying.
He stood by his announcement to passengers in the face of the danger the flight was in, where he was reported to have asked them to pray, and adding that he too was praying the flight would land safely in Perth airport.
“I made that announcement due to my belief in the Almighty.
“I also prayed and I felt it was not wrong to ask the passengers to do the same. I am thankful that we were able to land the aircraft safely in Perth,” he told Berita Harian, while also giving credit to his co-pilot Vincent Low for helping him to control the Airbus A330 aircraft.
Australian media had reported on Monday that many passengers said the pilot had told them to pray the plane would land safely back in Perth.
“He (the pilot) said: ‘I hope you all say a prayer; I will be saying a prayer too and let’s hope we all get back home safely’,” passenger Sophie Nicholas was quoted as saying by WA Today.
This created some controversy with former minister Zaid Ibrahim then criticising the pilot for saying that at a critical moment, with passengers fearing the worst, instead of giving some hope.
Captain Ibrahim said the plane was not out of danger until it landed at Perth airport.
“After coming down to 25,000 feet level and continuing our descent, the plane suffered a sudden jolt. My co-pilot and I assessed the situation, looking at the flight’s positioning while considering potential scenarios.
“We then opted to reduce the speed to the approved minimum, and even though it was unsuccessful, we never gave up hope and thankfully found a way to land the aircraft safely.”
The flight, which left Perth, Western Australia at 6.50am on Sunday en route to Kuala Lumpur, was forced to turned back to Perth a few hours later following engine trouble. It was later discovered that a blade from its left engine turbine had broken off.
The Australian Transport Safety Board (ATSB) said it is also investigating the matter, while AirAsia, Airbus and engine maker Rolls-Royce are also carrying out the relevant technical probes into the incident.
Passengers related the frightening experience on board after the plane suffered the sudden damage to the left engine.
“It was literally like you were sitting on top of a washing machine. It was essentially like the engine seized up I think, that’s what they told us anyway.
“We could see the engine out the window which was really shaking on the wing. Once we landed, we realised one of the blades had actually come off the turbine,” Brenton Atkinson told ABC News, adding the vibrations were far more than the standard turbulence which passengers are familiar with.