A Christian airline pilot says the Holy Spirit moved him to hurry up the departure of his Batik Air flight from Palu carrying 140 passengers, perhaps saving many lives as the disaster unfolded around them, according to the website God Reports.
Captain Icoze Mafella spoke about the experience at a Jakarta church on Sunday, Sept. 30.
Mafella, a devout Christian, said he felt uneasy and began to sing worship songs in the cockpit on the inbound flight from Ujung Pandang to Palu on Friday, Sept. 28.
"Usually I only hummed, but that day I wanted to praise the Lord as best I could," he recalled.
"I think you should make a CD of worship songs," his Muslim co-pilot told him, jokingly.
Mafella told the congregation that when they were about to land at the Palu Airport, the wind was unusually strong and he "heard a voice in his heart" directing him to circle again before landing.
Mafella said he reminded himself to be extra careful with the landing and recited the 23rd Psalm.
After the plane landed, Mafella said the Holy Spirit prompted him once more that he needed to hurry while on the ground. He instructed the airplane's crew to just take a short break before the plane took off for Ujung Pandang with their final destination being Jakarta.
"I didn't even leave the cockpit and requested permission from the control tower to depart three minutes ahead of schedule," he recalled.
Receiving the OK from Air Controller Anthonius Agung, the captain, and his crew prepared for departure. He said he felt such an urgency that he broke with standard flight procedures and took over some of his co-pilot's duties in order to speed up their leave time.
The time for their departure came and the Mafella's plane shot 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.
As the plane sped down the runway, the massive earthquake began to strike Palu. Both pilots felt the plane shift from the left to the right, according to God Reports.
"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," he said.
Mafella said he attempted to talk to the control tower, but there was no response on the radio.
After the plane landed in Ujung Pandang, he found out about the earthquake and tsunami in Palu. He later learned that Agung, the air traffic controller, made sure their plane had taken off safely before he jumped from the control tower as it was being brought down by the quake. Angug later died of his injuries.
"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."
The captain also reminded the church members that it's important we hear 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.