Crikey readers respond to yesterday’s item about the perils of flying in Indonesia:

John Nicol  writes: This actually happened to me in 1986. I was on that flight [reported yesterday in Crikey]. Some of your details are incorrect. The flight was from Balikpapan to Baduk. I sat in the front row, behind the cockpit bulkhead and anti-hijack door and a chrome plated “ceremonial” tomahawk, held in a leather strap. The thing that is important here is that the cockpit door was held open with a ladies black stocking! The timing was at the end of the Haj, and Haj pilgrims were returning home. One of the Haj pilgrims was either the mother of, or otherwise related to the co-pilot. So, after he had taken off, the co-pilot came out and was talking with the pilgrim. I assume the aircraft was on autopilot, and much to our amazement out came the captain. The aircraft hit some turbulence, the stocking slipped off the door handle, and the anti-hijack door, that can only be unlocked from the inside, slammed shut. The two pilots, typically indonesian, that is smallish in stature and of gentle disposition, were trapped outside the door, in a state of panic. The was a big Texan oil guy, with big belt and wing boots (you get the picture), leapt from his seat with a typical texan expletive, along the lines of “f-ck this for a joke”, and used his very large frame and wing boots to kick the door in. The axe had no part in this. He then grabbed both pilots and threw them into the cockpit and told them in no uncertain terms to “get your asses in there and drive this airplane” — I remember that quote vividly.

Martin Guthrie writes: The worst experience I had was flying from Denpasar to Jarkarta on Garuda: my allocated seat was sans seatbelt. Fortunately, it was a flight free of turbulence. I was also stuck on a 737 for an hour on the tarmac in Jakarta. The explanation from the captain was that we were waiting for a similar Garuda aircraft to land so that a required part could be taken off that aircraft and used on ours (this was just after the Asian economic crisis and they were about to go bust). Such events did not instil me with confidence. Nor did the song jokingly sung by travellers about another Indonesian airline, Merpati: “It’s Merpati and I’ll die if I want to…” (apologies to Lesley Gore).  

Rob Gill writes: Flying in Indonesia …. no, not with Merpati, Garuda or Adam but our very own in September 1997. Arriving in Bali from Darwin and the 737 was getting down to the point of no return … undercarriage down, full flap … just at the point they whack the throttles back and flop onto the tarmac. But in this case it wasn’t tarmac. We nearly put down in a kampong …. lots of little houses and dim lights just under the wings … no more than 50 feet below … the sort of altitude where you see the wingtips below the horizon. Frantic power on, wheels up, started to climb, flaps up and off for another look for the airport. I could never find anyone in authority to talk to about this but probably still have dates, times etc.

Anonymous writes: A pilot friend who won his stripes through a cadetship with Garuda told me about flying their 767s on the island-hopping runs. He told me that the flaps, used to increase lift for takeoffs and landings, are normally run by a hydraulic system. As a backup, they have an electric motor, designed to be used once if the hydraulic system fails. He says he flew on the electric motor for three months once when the hydraulic system failed and wasn’t repaired.

Geoff Kuehne writes: Your story about the Indonesian pilots “Everyone in Indonesia has an airline story” did acknowledge that it could have been an urban myth, but you still persisted with it! Why did you do that? Maybe you should add it to the list at Snopes… 

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey