Captain Icoze Mafella, a Christian airline pilot, told a Jakarta church that he was moved by the Holy Spirit to depart from the Palu airport early on September 28, the day Indonesia was struck by an earthquake and tsunami.
Mafella recalled feeling uneasy that day, so he decided to sing worship songs in the cockpit to calm his nerves. He said, “Usually I only hummed, but that day I wanted to praise the Lord as best I could.”
He recalled that his Muslim co-pilot joked with him saying, “I think you should make a CD of worship songs.”
As the pilots began to descend their incoming flight from Ujung Pandang to Palu they noticed that the wind was abnormally strong. This was when Mafella said he “heard a voice in his heart” telling him to circle one more time before landing the plane.
Mafella recalled that he needed to be extra careful with the landing amid the heavy wind and he decided to recite Psalm 23 for encouragement.
Mafella and his co-pilot safely landed the plane, but Mafella still felt uneasy. He said he felt God told him that he needed to be speedy while on the ground, even encouraging him to take off earlier than scheduled. The pilot asked the crew to make their break short before the plane took off for Jakarta.
“I didn’t even leave the cockpit and requested permission from the control tower to depart three minutes ahead of schedule,” he recalled.
After receiving the okay from Air Controller Anthonius Agung to depart early, Mafella and his crew prepared for departure. The pilot recalled that he felt such a strong sense of urgency that he broke standard flight procedures and took over some of his co-pilot’s duties in order to get the plane in the air faster.
Mafella recalled that they rocketed the plane down the runway.
“I don’t know why but my hand kept pushing the lever causing the plane to speed up as it took off,” he said.
While speeding down the runway the massive 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit. According to CBN News, both pilots remembered the plane rocking from the left to the right.
“If I had taken off three minutes later, I would not have been able to save the 140 passengers, because the asphalt on the landing strip was moving up and down like a curtain blowing in the wind,” Mafella said.
The pilots reportedly attempted to contact the control tower but did not receive a response.
Later, they found out that the control tower collapsed during the earthquake, but not before Agung, the air traffic controller, could make sure their plane had taken off safely. After the plane had safely taken off, Agung reportedly jumped from the tower in an attempt to save his life. Sadly, Agung later died of injuries sustained from the quake.
“In this difficult time, during the split seconds of decisions, he waited for me until I was safe before he jumped,” Mafella said. “That’s why I call him my guardian angel.”
Mafella used this experience to encourage his church members in Jakarta to listen to the voice of God.
“And whatever happens we must be calm, not in a panic so that we can clearly hear the voice of God coming to us by the Holy Spirit,” he said.
Photo courtesy: Daniel Olah/Unsplash