Nonsense, says Mahathir on claim he was offered replacement jet

LANGKAWI: Dr Mahathir Mohamad has rubbished a claim by a flight charter company that he was immediately offered another plane upon discovery of a technical problem involving a private jet he was to board for Langkawi last Friday.

“The statement that another plane was offered is sheer nonsense because after I found the plane could not fly, we tried to borrow from friends with private aircrafts,” the Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman said today, refuting a statement by VistaJet International denying that his plane was sabotaged, and that another jet was immediately made available.

Mahathir said he had to contact three friends who would normally lend him their aircraft.

“But this time they refused to lend their aircraft and one of them indicated that he is under pressure not to lend me his aircraft,” he said.

He said a friend who had chartered a plane to Singapore had agreed to fly him to Langkawi instead.

Mahathir also rejected the argument by the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) that the technical error on the plane – leakage of fluid from the front wheel – was a “minor and routine” technical fault.

“This is a very serious thing because it may result in the plane going off track when taking off or landing. But fortunately, the pilot discovered the leak before the plane took off and told me that he cannot fly in that condition,” he said.

He questioned CAAM’s denial, saying it was not based on any investigation but merely to refute his claims.

“I am not accusing the CAAM of doing anything wrong. I know the CAAM does not have a very tight security all over the country to ensure that planes are not tampered with,” he said.

Mahathir had on Friday suggested an attempt to sabotage his flight to Langkawi, a day before he filed his nomination papers. Following this, the Ministry of Transport said the matter would be investigated.

Mahathir today said the problem was the first he had encountered.

“I have flown thousands of times in private jets. There has never been any serious incident that forced the plane to be grounded. This is the first time I have to experience damage to the front wheel of the airplane.

“At other times the engine may not be functioning well and it could be repaired in time but this damage to the front wheel of the plane is a very serious damage,” he said in a statement he issued from Langkawi, where he is standing as a candidate for the May 9 polls.

Mahathir also dismissed a suggestion that the plane was his own.

“I do not have RM2.6 billion in my account to spend on a private jet or a yacht,” he said, in an apparent reference to allegations linked to troubled state firm 1MDB.