Indonesian pilot fired after slurred cockpit announcement

Video showed the pilot staggering through airport security and dropping his belongings several times after arriving late for his flight.

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 December, 2016, 3:20pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 January, 2017, 5:10pm

An Indonesian pilot who stumbled through airport security and repeatedly dropped his belongings before making a slurred announcement to his 154 passengers from the cockpit has been fired, officials said on Saturday.

The CEO of budget airline Citilink, a subsidiary of national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia, had also offered his resignation to take responsibility for the incident.

Citilink, which is a unit of national carrier PT Garuda Indonesia, said that the company had fired the pilot after a December 28 incident at Surabaya airport ahead of a flight to Jakarta and that two executives had offered to resign.

The pilot was replaced before the flight proceeded, according to a company statement.

In the aviation industry, we believe in zero mistakes
Citilink spokesman Benny Siga Butarbutar

Fary Djemi Francis, who heads a parliamentary commission overseeing transportation, said that the airline had been asked to investigate whether the pilot had been on drugs.

“Second, we also ask Citilink’s management to sanction the pilot who went on board the aircraft without going through the briefing room, missing checks on his fitness to fly,” Francis said.

YouTube footage showed 32-year-old pilot Tekad Purna staggering through a metal detector at airport security and dropping his bag and belongings several times after arriving late for his flight on Wednesday.

After hearing a garbled and slurred announcement from the cockpit, scared passengers reported the pilot, accusing him of being drunk or on drugs.

The flight took off later with a new pilot but several of the passengers decided to cancel.

The transportation ministry had sent a warning letter to Citilink and called for an internal investigation after finding that health checks and other procedures had not been followed according to regulations, said ministry spokesman Bambang S Ervan.

Citilink did not name the pilot but said in a statement that it had fired him after he had “ignored the flight safety and security procedures which could potentially endanger the security and safety of passengers and other crew members”.

Chief Executive Albert Burhan and operations director, Hadinoto Soedigno, had also offered to resign over the incident, Citilink spokesman Benny Butarbutar said on Saturday.

The spokesman said the resignations would require the approval of shareholders.

“In the aviation industry, we believe in zero mistakes ... We would never mess around when it concerns the condition of a flight, let alone experiment with passenger safety,” Butarbutar said.

Indonesia has been trying to improve safety in its airline sector after a series of accidents. For a while, some carriers were barred from flying to the European Union and some other markets over safety concerns.

Citilink operates 34 aircraft, conducting 184 flights daily, the company’s website said.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse