Australia: AirAsia X pilot criticised for panicked response to shaking aircraft
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Australia: AirAsia X pilot criticised for panicked response to shaking aircraft

THE captain of AirAsia X Flight D7237 that was forced to return to Perth, Australia, on Sunday following a technical failure on board, is now facing flak for telling passengers to “say a prayer” during the terrifying ordeal.

According to reports, commentators and some passengers aboard the Kuala Lumpur-bound aircraft, while grateful for the safe landing, were not overly pleased with the pilot’s reaction to the situation or the airline’s response thus far.

A report by Telegraph quoted American passenger Samantha Fox as saying she no longer wanted to travel with the airline.

“I’m going to… Hawaii instead,” Fox said. “It’s the unease about that particular route and the airline.”

SEE ALSO: Misfortune strikes AirAsia flight, stranding passengers in Bali for more than 36 hours

The twin-aisle Airbus 330-300 reportedly began shaking like a “washing machine” as it flew over the Indian Ocean Sunday morning, about an hour and a half after the flight left Perth for Kuala Lumpur at 6.50am local time.

Passengers reported hearing an explosion from the left engine and said the flight captain declared an emergency shortly after, saying the engine had seized.

Footage from inside the cabin posted online shows the seats of the aircraft rattling violently as the pilot tells passengers to pray and that their survival relies on their cooperation. According to 7 News Perth, which posted the video, the captain also admitted that he too was scared.

According to Wa News, a passenger aboard the plane said the reaction from the cabin crew indicated the situation was “really bad”.

“He [the flight captain] 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,’” said Sophie Nicolas to reporters.

Another passenger, identified only as Emily, described the experience as “traumatic”, adding that after the pilot’s remarks, “everyone kind of panicked a little bit because it sounded like we were not going to get home safely.”

After over an hour, the plane ferrying 359 passengers safely made a turn back to the Perth airport and landed without incident at 10am.

AirAsia X Berhad has since released a statement confirming the aircraft experienced a “technical” complication. AirAsia X is the long-haul arm of low-cost carrier AirAsia.

Aviation Analysis says initial inspections have revealed that one of the aircraft’s two Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines had lost a turbine blade, which caused the rotational imbalance.

Zaid Ibrahim, formerly a Malaysian federal minister, said the pilot should not have responded the way he did.

“Pilot has to give hope, and leave the rest to God and the passengers. If AirAsia are big into prayers; engage proper iman and priest,” he wrote on Twitter.

Others have weighed in with similar comments:

However, many passengers have also praised the pilot for landing the plane safely.

“The captain did a very good job, he was reassuring and then we landed safely,” said one man quoted by Wa News.

One commentator said on 7 News Perth‘s Facebook page: “Greatest Pilots are human being too, whats wrong asking for a prayer? Everyone just need to support each another in times of trouble, while pilot assuring he will do his best to ensure everyone’s safety by deciding to return to perth … isn’t that’s best survival he ever decided for the passenger?”

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