Indonesia: Christian airline pilot prompted to speed departure before earthquake and tsunami hit

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By Mark Ellis —

Captain Icoze Mafella (Instagram)

The Holy Spirit prompted a Christian airline pilot to speed the departure of his Batik Air flight from Palu carrying 140 passengers, narrowly averting a potential disaster with the loss of many lives.

The epicenter of a powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck Friday September 28th in a mountainous area of Central Sulawesi, 48 miles from the provincial capital of Palu. Only minutes later, underwater landslides apparently triggered a massive 10 to 20-foot tsunami that swept through Palu and other coastal areas.

The waves were intensified by Palu’s location at the end of a narrow bay. At least 1200 people perished and smaller villages in the surrounding area were entirely swept away. Because communication has been poor in remote areas, the death toll may increase dramatically.

“All day Friday I had been feeling unsettled and I didn’t know why,” Captain Icoze Mafella recounted at a Jakarta church, Duta Injil BIP, on Sunday September 30th.

To displace his feelings of unease, Captain Mafella – a strong Christian – began to loudly sing worship songs on his flight from Ujung Pandang to Palu. “Usually I only hummed, but that day I wanted to praise the Lord as best I could,” he said.

“I think you should make a CD of worship songs,” his Muslim co-pilot told him, jokingly.

Captain Mafella (right) and his co-pilot

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.

The Palu airport is squeezed between two mountain ranges and some pilots refer to airports situated in this way as “valleys of death,” so once again, the pilot felt prompted to be extra careful in landing and recited the 23rd Psalm:

“I may walk through valleys as dark as death but I won’t be afraid. You are with me and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe,” he said.

After they landed, the Holy Spirit prompted him once more that he needed to be quick. He instructed his crew to take a shorter, 20-minute break, before the plane was due to take off for Jakarta via Ujung Pandang.

“I didn’t even leave the cockpit and requested permission from the control tower to depart three minutes ahead of schedule,” he recounted.

He received approval for the expedited time for takeoff from Air Controller Anthonius Agung and they prepared for departure.

He felt such an urgency, that Captain Mafella broke with standard flight procedures and took over some of the co-pilot’s responsibilities to speed up their exit.

The moment arrived for takeoff and Captain Mafella barreled 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 they sped down the airstrip, the massive earthquake began to strike Palu and both pilots felt the plane sway noticeably to the left and right. The Muslim co-pilot glanced at Captain Mafella with a look of fear in his eyes.

“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 testified.

Several minutes after takeoff, he attempted to communicate with the control tower but there was no response.

Then he looked down and saw an unusual sight. “The sea water on the coast was forming a very large hole so that the foundation of the sea bed could be seen,” he reported. “I saw circles getting bigger and bigger. I thought it was very strange.”

White “hole” forming along coast as water recedes before tsunami (Instagram photo by Captain Mafella icoze_ricochet)

Prior to a tsunami, the shoreline often recedes dramatically, exposing areas that are normally submerged.

When the plane arrived in Ujung Pandang, he was told the shocking news that there had been an earthquake and tsunami in Palu.

Air Controller Anthonius Agung

The air controller, Anthonius Agung, 21, made sure their plane – the last to leave the airport — had safely taken off before he jumped from the crumbling control tower at the height of the quake.

“They said people tried to call him to get away from the tower, but he said, ‘No, the aircraft isn’t airborne yet.’ Then the roof started collapsing and he jumped.

Tragically, he broke his legs, arms, and ribs as a result of the fall and died from internal injuries on his way to the hospital.

Partially collapsed tower

“In this difficult time, during the split seconds of decisions, he waited for me until I was safe before he jumped. That’s why I call him my guardian angel.”

Many others are calling the air controller a hero – along with Captain Mafella.

“It is important that we are hear the voice of God,” he said.

“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.”

73 COMMENTS

    • You dont know when you’re gonna die
      Repent of your sins and receive Christ as your Saviour! Tomorrow may be too late.

      • It’s very true.
        Matthew 24 – 27. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

    • You are 100% correct you are sick. But Jesus loves you just as much as He loves me and He too died for you.
      May the Holy Spirit touch your heart and heal you.

    • God bless you! May you be surrounded by the love of Christ and experience the peace that comes from Him. There’s room for everyone here! Don’t be afraid! He loves you!!

    • @”satan” Haters gonna hate…but I’ll bet the 140 people on the plane were happy this pilot chose to listen to God’s whisper instead of ignore it like many others. Call it what you want, but don’t hate on a man who swallowed his pride and saved a plane full of people because he listened to someone you don’t even believe exists.

    • Do you expect Yahweh (GOD) to hear the prayers of those who have not repented? Especially you with that name and who you worship? Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand!

    • no… god speaks to everyone, He spoke to everyone that day. But just like in the bible, when he spoke the people thought it thundered. God spoke to everyone in the twin towers on 9/11, but we are so occupied with our own thoughts, He can’t get through the noise in our own heads. That pilot had been praising God all day because he felt troubled, so his mind could pick up Gods voice in his spirit. God loves us all the same. But some are more in tune to him. That is on us not on HIM

    • If they knew God He May have also warned them. Nobody is guaranteed tomorrow, and all are appointed once to die but those that know God and know His voice are blessed and have eternal life.

    • The problem is you don’t realize you were already sick. What’s also amazing is that you seem to have a standard for right and wrong with a worldview of randomness. Interesting concept.

  1. Wow! We need to train ourselves to pause, be quiet & listen …during our prayer time. God often speaks! This is not reserved to those with prophetic gifts only (Jn 10:27)

    • Hi Flo the reality of it all is that we all have these gifts and it is up to us to pursue it and ask Holy Spirit to activate it all. Hope this makes sense for you. Blessings and may you experience His Fullness. Amen.

  2. Good Job Captain & ATC offer who did his duties until the last minute. Keep up the good job in order to save the life of many people.

    • Technically, “god” didn’t save anyone, he asked a pilot to save the people on his plane…and the pilot listened to him. I’m just glad it was a christian flying that plane instead of you…

      • So why didn’t God speak to anyone else to save them and let hundreds die? Or prevent the disaster? Why do children starve to death or get blown up every single day? Nobody here has ANY logic….

        • UP HOLY GHOST!
          How easier do you think it is for a man to communicate with another man than it is for him to communicate with a goat?
          The LOGIC is the difference in Nature!
          Without being born a human you cannot relate well with fellows in the context of humanity. Also, unless a man be born again/of God, he cannot partake of the nature of God. (John 3:3, 16)
          Just like it takes a functional radio set to tune to radio waves to get a communication, it takes a living born again spirit to receive divine communication. God speaks to his children. Are you one? The proof of a man being a child of God is that his Father could communicate with him. John 1:12.

        • Like the Muslim pilot, no on else would have been listening for God’s still small voice warning them, just as well the Christian was!

        • We live in a fallen world that doesn’t operate the way God designed it to operate. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that “he (God) makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. And in Luke 13 Jesus taught:

          There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

  3. Can we know the favorite hymns of Captain Mafella? What’s the name of his home church, where?

    • His home church is at Duta Injil BIP in Jakarta. He gave testimony at his church and during that day when he flew the plane he sang I sing praises to Your Name O Lord.

  4. God is in control of this planet we live on and all the people who live here. Blessed be His name. He has a purpose for everything that happens to us. As we trust in Him He will direct our ways. Proverbs 3:5 & 6. He has proven this over and over again. It was a joy to read again of His direction in the life of one of His sons. There were any number of believers of many different beliefs on that plane. God protected them all. Tragedies occur all over the world today. It is part of life. We must learn to trust our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to direct us, protect us, and bring us home in His time.

  5. Those who hear and obey the promptings of the Spirit of our God (the Creator) as the pilot did will be saved. You satan worshipers are looking for and expecting destruction and that is ALL you will get from your god.

  6. @SATAN, -d sick guy.
    I wish you had the HOLY SPIRIT, but you can still have HIM if only you will submit to JESUS today. This type of experience is common place for Christians. We call it “BEING LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT”.
    If you care to join our “CLUB” of the LED, then be daring and say a short prayer which is “JESUS CHRIST, manifest yourself to me if you’re truly ALIVE please. I want to know the truth, as different from deception. Thank you LORD.”
    I guarantee that your life will never remain the same. Then go to a BIBLE READING, Holy Ghost Based Church.
    You will wonder where you have been all these years.

  7. Look every one dies sometime right? In an earthquake or in our bed, now or a few years from now. Only those that know our creator and are known by Him are real alive and we will never experience death but as our bodies stop functioning who we are inside will continue to exist with the One we know now. This was made possible by Jesus. Ask him to show you and you will find out for yourself.

  8. What a mighty God we serve
    This is the God of Israel who never sleeps nor slumbers
    He is a good Shepherd
    Hail hail JESUS CHRIST

  9. Our awesome God. My prayer is that those (the 140 )who experienced this miracle that are yet to turn to Jesus Christ will do so now because the itself is a an evangelism.

  10. So, the “Christian God” talked to the Christian pilot, while the “Muslim God” didn’t talk to the Muslim pilot. All the people in the plane were saved but the majority of muslims on land were not. Sounds like an episode in Vikings! Valhala. 🙂

    • The Muslim pilot would not have been listening for the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, just as well for the majority of Muslims on board, that the Christian was!

  11. Anyone know why the air traffic controller had to stay at his post? The pilots got the okay to take-off, the plane initiated the departure. It’s not like the plane is waiting for air traffic to open gates or anything. Couldn’t the ATC exit the tower as the plane was taking off and possibly save his own life?

    • I’ve wondered about that too. I am guessing he jumped from the tower within seconds of the plane’s departure, as the earthquake intensified and the top of the tower began to collapse.

  12. This is an awesome testimony. God truly is faithful and true. May we be totally tuned to Him when He speaks. May theose affected by the earthquake receive the comfort of the Lord in Jesus mighty name. Amen

  13. This also bothers me about this report. Once ATC gives a plane “Cleared for Take Off” there is no need for any further instruction. That command can be given (if the way to the runway is clear, the runway is clear of traffic, and there is no incoming plane) while the plane is taxiing to the runway. ATC can either give “hold short” or “hold” or “cleared for take off” at the end of the taxi instruction. Once that command is given, the ATC guy does not need to stay in the tower to make sure of anything.
    Second thing that bothers me about the story is the Muslim co-pilot who does not object to Christian songs being sung, knows enough to call he praise or worship songs, and does not question a go-around prior to landing, an accelerated turn-around, or a breach of procedure in the pilot taking on some of his check-list tasks. Some of these can be explained by him being a “marginal or lapsed muslim”, and a very excellent and trusting pilot/copilot relationship. Without that background info, this remains at the very least: odd.
    The third thing that bothers me is the comment: “my hand kept pushing the lever causing the plane to speed up as it took off” comment. No pilot would refer to this as “the lever”, it is called “the throttle”. I will conceed that he probably did not give his testimony at church or the interview from which this was taken in English, so this might have “suffered in translation”. Nor is he being officially debriefed, so he might be using terminology that lay people understand. I have heard pilots give testimonies in church, and they still use the correct phrases, because that is how they are trained. However, every passenger plane (jet or prop) takes off at 100% throttle settings, some even “running up the revs” with brakes on prior to moving down the runway. No pilot would ever have to push the throttle (forward) to increase the plane’s velocity. Like in a car, you just “floor it”. Human nature could keep pushing it in a vain psychological attempt to coax the airplane to speed up faster, but again the words used are “causing the plane to speed up”. A pilot recounting the event would never say that (but then again: translation).
    The problem is that stories like this end up getting told and then taken up and retold, and later it turns out that the entire story was fabricated. Like the one about the guy who saw the plane come at his floor of the WTC on 9/11, smelled the kerosene, felt the intnse heat, but survived. Not even possible. Since every single place where I find this story, got it from the same source, there is no way for me to independantly verify whether it is true. When I combine that with the inaccuracies I mentioned above, I become suspicious.
    So Mark Ellis, can you confirm your source, and explain the odd phrases in the pilot’s report?

    • My source for the story was a pastor in Malaysia, who viewed the video testimony of Captain Mafella speaking at a small church in Jakarta. The video was posted on YouTube at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMV-r-gjf4o
      A multilingual friend of the pastor verified the accuracy of the English translation of the captain’s remarks, but I suspect a word like “throttle” may have suffered in translation. In terms of the timing, my understanding is that we are talking about mere seconds between the plane’s take-off and the controller deciding to jump from the tower. The Muslim co-pilot appeared to be much younger than the pilot and serving in a deferential capacity. Without interviewing him, it would be difficult to know what was actually going through his mind. On the 9/11 story, I’m not sure if you are referring to the Stanley Praimnath testimony, but I personally interviewed him and found him credible.

    • David Boyd: No pilot would refer to this as “the lever”, it is called “the throttle”.

      Is it a throttle? Is it a lever? No, it’s a THRUST LEVER:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thrust_lever

      All the conversations have been recorded by the flight data recorder and Air Traffic Control. Also recorded are the jolts the plane received as it bounced down the runway during takeoff. I wouldn’t be surprised if he literally jammed his foot on the THRUST LEVER and braced himself against the back of his seat.

      Flight data:
      https://www.flightradar24.com/data/flights/id6231

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