Calm, prayers help steer stricken plane

2011-05-16 10:00

Singapore - Terrified passengers aboard a Cathay Pacific flight prayed together as their aircraft, one of its engines on fire, made its way back to Singapore on Monday, and their calm response earned praise from the captain.

Cathay Pacific said the Airbus 330, bound for Jakarta with 136 passengers on board, landed back in Singapore "without incident". It said the crew shut down the engine after receiving a "stall warning".

Reuters photographer Beawiharta was aboard the aircraft with his wife, two sons and daughter. About 20 minutes after take-off, there were two sharp bangs, sending cabin staff scurrying to retrieve the meals they had only just begun serving.

The aircraft began shaking violently, he said, and the lights went out. He could smell something burning.

His son, Pradipta, aged 15, said he saw nothing as he peered out the window.

"But I asked him to cup his hands to get a better view," Beawiharta said. "He shouted: 'I see fire! I see fire!'

Passengers thanked

"Panicked, he then asked: 'Will we die? Will we die?' I took his hand and told him firmly: 'No, we are going to live.'

"Behind us, passengers were praying: 'God, save our flight! Give us your protection!'"

The prayers got louder and louder, pierced by only the occasional cry of panic.

"A stewardess told us an engine had caught fire and we were on our way back to Singapore. Glued to the window, my son said he could see lights, the sea and ships and then lights on the ground. We all grabbed life jackets from beneath our seats, but the plane landed smoothly.

"Within five minutes, as firefighters doused the damaged engine, we walked off the plane into the terminal."

In the waiting room, the pilot greeted assembled passengers.

"The best that we can ever ask of passengers is to stay cool, stay calm ... which you did," he said. "And for that we thank you."

  • SuperCal - 2011-05-16 10:26

    Must have been a South African>>>>

      Audacious - 2011-05-16 10:34

      South African who what?

      tdk25 - 2011-05-16 10:36

      WTF are you talking about???

      Perfume - 2011-05-16 10:39

      What South African?????

      tim - 2011-05-16 10:49

      What the hell is that supposed to mean?? South African what? who????

      Rolie - 2011-05-16 11:05

      I think he meant a South African pilot. Who cares! This is not a team we are supporting. This pilot did a great job in saving lives.

      Michael - 2011-05-16 11:36

      @SuperCal, I wonder if you ever made Gr8 judging by your IQ level... Maybe it could have been better if you were trapped inside a condom and never saw daylight.

      Barry - 2011-05-16 11:44

      @SuperCal Are you mad ?

  • MWF - 2011-05-16 10:31

    Congratulations to the pilots on a safe landing under tremendous pressure. Well done!

      Helen - 2011-05-18 10:38

      Well done indeed and it was NOT an SA pilot. They don't pilot Cathay Pacific planes.

  • George - 2011-05-16 10:37

    The "calm" response of the passengers as reported by the Captain can only be contrued as "frozen with fear" not calmness. I personally woulf have Cra**ed in my pants

  • tdk25 - 2011-05-16 10:37

    Written like a novel.... ""But I asked him to cup his hands to get a better view," Beawiharta said. "He shouted: 'I see fire! I see fire!.....Panicked, he then asked: 'Will we die? Will we die?' I took his hand and told him firmly: 'No, we are going to live.'The prayers got louder and louder, pierced by only the occasional cry of panic.

      Krush - 2011-05-16 11:28


      KD - 2011-05-16 11:32

      ha ha ha I was thinking the same thing!!! Very funny :)

  • Robert - 2011-05-16 10:41

    Give that man a Bells...

      MeChirping - 2011-05-16 13:02

      I second that Well done to the crew and Passengers God Bless

  • Valis - 2011-05-16 10:46

    Prayers steered the plane? Whahahahahahahahahaha!!!! Then what, Santa Claus came swooping down to help, with the invisible pink unicorn? And was the Tooth Fairy present as well?

      tim - 2011-05-16 10:50

      Not funny!! Hope you are one day a passenger in that unfortunate situation. Then we will see what your reaction would be!!

      Cliff - 2011-05-16 10:54


      SoulF - 2011-05-16 11:11

      Now they will all say that god saved them not the skilled pilot who has been trained over many years and has vast experience. I wonder how many people prayed on the planes that didn't make it. The most annoying thing about religion is that god can never lose.

      bakkies - 2011-05-16 11:17

      Cant you see the BIGGER HAND of GOD in saving these people. If could have been a worse accident, but GOD has other plans.

      SoulF - 2011-05-16 11:26

      @Bakkies - 70 people killing in Iran air crash. 153 people killed in Madrid plane crash and so on. One I suspect would have been mainly Muslims and the other most likely mainly Catholic. Two different religions and two terrible tragedies. Where was god's big hand guiding these two or was he slapping them? You can't just say things and expect them to be true. The pilot saved them and that's it. Why would god let the engine fire start in the first place if we wanted the people to live?

      Nesomaniac - 2011-05-16 11:37

      Yeah, it was the pilot who steered the 'plane back to safety. In situations like this you can pray until you're blue in the face but unless the pilot is trained and competent all the prayers in the world are not going to save you. As someone remarked, "Give that man a Bells" - give him the credit he's due.

      pwhanekom - 2011-05-16 11:39

      Nobody said God saved them! They said He helped them stay calm! To the ignorant atheists out there God never said he'd keep Christians from getting hurt or dying. He wants your soul not your lousy, useless flesh!

      Mikemcc - 2011-05-16 11:44

      @pwhanekom, so then why does this god allow people to be born just so he can kill them off in any number of brutal ways?

      avaricesa - 2011-05-16 11:46

      @pwhanekom, actually, it seems it was their calmness whilst in prayer that helped, rather than them panicking and screaming, read the last lines.

      avaricesa - 2011-05-16 11:47

      @tim, very kind to wish that upon someone.

      zaatheist - 2011-05-16 12:15

      Prayers????? Pleeeeeese! If the God helped them then why did he allow them to be in the plane in the first place? May God bless her, and all who sail in her" - Florence Ismay, at the launching of the Titanic

      charlile - 2011-05-16 12:39


      avaricesa - 2011-05-16 13:29

      @charlile, could you please turn off your caps lock.

      Clanger - 2011-05-16 14:07

      @charlile - Have you ever seen Santa Claus? Have you ever seen god? Do you not see that your argument is a little flawed? @bakkies - so gods plan is to save a small percentage of plane crashes and to hell with the rest.... The pilot used his training and tons of luck to land the plane safely.

      Helen - 2011-05-18 10:35

      No, but Superman was

  • Lennox - 2011-05-16 10:56

    A pilots training really comes to the fore during times like this.....but what I loved most about the story is the fact that a lot of passengers were praying to God. 'God, save our flight! Give us your protection!'" I often read the thoughts of atheists on this forum which is quite saddening to say the least. When people are faced with a life threatening situation, they always look to God for help, we are always connected to our creator, whether we like it or not. The passengers did not pray, "Pilot, save our flight". I have witnessed two atheists on their deathbed asking God for help whilst denying him when things were going well for them....makes one think.

      SoulF - 2011-05-16 11:17

      How do you know that there were Atheists on the flight? How do you know that Atheists were chanting to this mythical creator? Before you make such generalised comments to punt your religion you should think logically. Anyway as per my previous comment I am sure people prayed on other flights that didn't end so well, my question is what makes this flight and the people on it more important to your god that he needs to save them? Makes one think.

      Uncle - 2011-05-16 11:17

      ja...makes me think you're a bit naive.

      SoulF - 2011-05-16 11:54

      @Barry - Perhaps you should pray to your god for some anger management assistance. Saying something over and over doesn't make it happen. For example saying god exists over and over doesn't make it true.

      Duke - 2011-05-16 15:11

      What a load of KUK. Did god help these atheists on their dying beds? Has anyone EVER escaped their dying bed? Pray all you want.. you cant escape a death bed! Doos

  • rurapente - 2011-05-16 11:05

    Well done Airbus! accidents happen, designing a plane to withstand them is a job well done. And the pilot too of course.

      Mikemcc - 2011-05-16 11:30

      This is true but what is particularly worrying is the frequency of engine problems with Airbus aircraft recently. Even more concerning is the frequency of these incidents arising out of Singapore where a number of airlines have moved their maintenance operations to.

      Wollie - 2011-05-16 12:50

      What I don't understand is that most modern jets have built in fire extingushers in their engines. So what happened to this planes?

  • avaricesa - 2011-05-16 11:30

    So all those flights that go down when people still pray are what now?

      mxmx - 2011-05-16 14:29

      Heb 11:13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth --- Faith gives us a buffer to be able to accept any circumstance...death or life...

      avaricesa - 2011-05-16 14:41

      Quoting obscure bible verses proves nothing. When I die, I won't go to heaven, I won't go to hell, there is no eternal happiness or eternal hell, life ends at death. I'm satisfied/comfortable/happy with that fact.

      mxmx - 2011-05-16 15:23

      your word against mine...or should i say, your "faith" against the end, both of us will be revealed to truth. Again, what will I have lost if i was wrong compared to what you would have lost, if you were wrong? "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"

      avaricesa - 2011-05-16 15:56

      @mxmx, pascals wager, the reason I asked if you think that all the others are wrong.

  • Chriselda - 2011-05-16 11:32

    Thank You Lord, we humbly Praise Your Name! You are our refuge and our strength in every surcumstance..

      SoulF - 2011-05-16 11:40

      It's circumstance. You don't need god to use a spell checker.

      Mikemcc - 2011-05-16 11:41

      Oh please! Why did this awesome god allow problems to arise with the engine in the first place then?

      shew - 2011-05-16 14:47

      @mikemcc: its obvious ... god made the engine blow so he could save the plane. come on bru, you need to change your breakfast cereal. the other flights that crashed god made the engine blow and then .... ummm .... hang on I'll come back to you on that one!

  • Michael - 2011-05-16 11:40

    Thanks God they landed safely. It also demonstrate the importance of staying calm during moments of looming disaster. Gives one time to think straight.

  • pwhanekom - 2011-05-16 11:42

    Nobody said God saved them! They said He helped them stay calm! To the ignorant atheists out there God never said he'd keep Christians from getting hurt or from dying. He wants your soul not your lousy, useless flesh!

      x - 2011-05-16 11:53

      Ignorant atheists? LOL

      SoulF - 2011-05-16 12:01

      What exactly are Atheists being ignorant about? Perhaps you should understand the definitions of words before using them?

      Epicurius - 2011-05-16 12:08

      If he truly wanted our souls he would simply extract them instantaneously and painlessly from our bodies whenever he forsees our lives about to end or that our 'flesh' is no longer capable of accommodating our soul. The concept of duality (body & soul being two separate entities) is medieval wish-thinking at best and while the question about how our brain produces consciousness is a profoundly deep and unanswerable one, the proof of our body being a vessel for a soul has not yet been presented. No, just because it is mentioned in the bible, or by people claiming to have out of body experiences, it does not make this true. Sounds a bit like Stockholm syndrome to me - he helped them to remain calm, when if we go by christian beliefs, he is the one who allowed the problems with the flight to occur in the first place. It certainly begs the question why god chooses to allow most such scenarios to end tragically while the victims scream and wail in sheer terror until the moment of impact. It's kind of like hanging your kid over the edge of a cliff and shaking them around, while softly urging them to calm down and not to be scared because 'daddy's here, my little darling'. Then the kid, once brought back to safety, says 'Thanks for comforting me during that horrible experience, daddy dearest, you're the best daddy a kid could ever ask for, always there for me when I need you the most'. Sure!!!

      shew - 2011-05-16 14:55

      @epicurius: very well written, hits the key notes. Its what all of us ignorant atheists are thinking but we don't all have such eloquent prowess to express it so well!

  • Kpt_Keyboard - 2011-05-16 11:47

    People have some respect!!!

  • mxmx - 2011-05-16 11:56

    @ Soulf: you ask for logic, yet logic does not have the answers for everything. Where did matter come from? Believing in the Big Bang as the start of all existence, to me is far more illogical, than lets say believing in a God who just IS...His creative hand can be seen throughout the universe(throwing eggs and flower into a bowl would not make a cake - there has to be a hand in it). Being self aware ("I think, therefore I am") is not something that can be evolved to. We are created to be "self aware" and being able to make decisions apart from what animals are capable of through instinct alone. Strange how so many people prefer associating themeselves to animals, instead of being called children of God...and in so being becoming beings with far more authority...such as God intended for us. Faith, is not something you can define by logic alone.

      SoulF - 2011-05-16 12:34

      @mxmx - Let me guess you just finished reading your pastors recommended book for the month on creationism. Let me try break this down but I do however feel that is will not change your narrow minded view. You are 100% correct that logic doesn't have answers for everything because logic is a method of reasoning, an application of thinking if you will. Science is the broad term used for other disciplines underneath it that actually prove/disprove hypothesis to create theories. Science doesn't have all the answers yet but that is why there is so much research conducted to try and understand more. In order for god to exist he needs to be infinitely more complex than the universe itself. I find that harder to believe than the Big Bang. We are not created, we are evolved. There is so much evidence to support this. Just look at the human genome project to see that we carry genes from all our previous ancestors all the way to a sea worm where all vertebrates are evolved. We are all animals; we are not children of an invisible god. I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment "Faith, is not something you can define by logic alone". This in essence, is what makes religion such a powerful, unsettling, unstable and dangerous practise. By not applying logical thought to things you end up acting irrationally.

  • Compassion - 2011-05-16 13:39

    Well done Captain!!! I hope you are the pilot when I fly with Cathay Pacific.

  • mxmx - 2011-05-16 14:01

    @ SoulF: Billions of people believe in a higher diety...the minority try and reason God out of the equasion. Are you saying the world of believers, who severely outnumber that of people who do not believe at all, are all "narrow minded"? To me its quite clear that the opposite reflects closer to the truth. As for levels of belief: What you believe, and what I believe, cannot change what is ultimately true, no matter how hard we try. If I were mistaken that God exists, I have only had some form of hope in this world, which would mean I would have gained hope. I have also learnt to focus on love and morals more than I would have before believing in the principles of God. So in that regard, is that really a bad thing? I have seen numerous churches reaching out to the that so bad? In retrospect, if you were mistaken, and God indeed exists, you would have lost more than what I would have. As for your last sentance, you are basically saying that millions of intelligent people, who believe in God, are irrational? To me, what you are saying, is far more irrational. There are numerous scientists who has become convinced in the existance of God, yet they still do their work with success. "The most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion on an intelligent and powerful Being." - Isaac Newton

      avaricesa - 2011-05-16 14:09

      @mxmx, you too believe all of them are wrong for believing in a different god, do you not?

      mxmx - 2011-05-16 14:24

      ps. avaricesa: its very presumptuous to just assume that i believe "them" to be wrong...its just not as simple as that

      avaricesa - 2011-05-16 14:31

      It was just a simple question, do you believe that all of them are wrong or not?

      SoulF - 2011-05-16 14:39

      If I said I believed in and worshipped Zeus would you not say that I was irrational or even insane for believing in a mythological Greek god that clearly does not exist? What you say makes my point more pertinent in that out of these billions of believes in religions not one has solid evidence that their specific god or gods exists. They all rely on this thing called faith. Now I don't believe that all humans are inherently stupid but certainly the fear and indoctrination drilled into one (yes me too) as a child makes it difficult to renounce ones faith for fear of numerous things such as "What if hell exists" or "Will my family will disown me". The church relies on fear of the unknown to control people but I will tell you something, the more science is discovering the more god is painting himself into a corner. I don't for one minute believe that many morals can be learnt from the bible. God is the most sadistic, murderous, hateful and destructive figure in the bible and I certainly won't be following anything he has to say about morals. What you are implying is non-believers have no morals however I have met people with the utmost moral fibre who have been both Atheist and Xtian rendering your argument moot. Check this site for more on Atheism, morals and proof on how moral god really is:

      mxmx - 2011-05-16 14:49

      no, i do not believe all of them to be wrong. Nor do I believe that there is one specific person in this world who knows all the answers either.

      x - 2011-05-16 15:03

      Ironically of course Newton was proven to be incorrect by Einstein. Sooooo....

      x - 2011-05-16 15:29

      ... and Pascal's Wager has never been a convincing argument for religion.

  • Jeff - 2011-05-16 14:04

    It's just an engine fire, nothing the skilled pilots have not been trained for and which the plane can't handle. As the pilot suggested, the most dangerous thing was the possibility of passengers panicking and doing stupid things. Prayer had nothing to do with their safe return - it's all down to decades of investment in scientific research and technology, and training.

      Helen - 2011-05-18 10:44

      Yes Jeff, but has it escaped your notice that it was yet another Airbus which malfunctioned? Zuma has recently acquired 3 of those for our SAA fleet.

  • mxmx - 2011-05-16 14:20

    @ avaricesa: Please stick to one topic at a time. The debate is faith vs. no faith...and not the denominations thereof...

      avaricesa - 2011-05-16 14:40

      Not able to handle a few thought processes?

      mxmx - 2011-05-16 15:17

      well...if you really want to know: not being able to handle people who chip in, especially since the discussion was directed at SoulF and not you...

      Duke - 2011-05-16 15:23

      @avaricesa - give the dude a break. The God who created mxmx is not perfect. A beliver wears blinkers, try how hard you may, it cannot be removed!

      Helen - 2011-05-18 10:47

      The Faith debate is irrelevant and rediculous. What is important is that SAA is now also going to fly Airbusses prone to sudden malfunctioning.

  • mxmx - 2011-05-16 16:44

    What I find strange is that so many people spend so much time trying to convince believers that they are wrong to believe in God. At least believers believe salvation is at stake - so that at least justifies their motivations. What motivates unbelievers? I mean, so what if people believe in God and they don't. Sure, believers may try and convince themselves that a God exists...but unbelievers seem to be trying to convince the world that God doesn't exist. They would rather live in a world without hope and without God (to justify their own sinful actions)...and in so doing, go to their graves thinking they are part of the elect few who knows science better than 99% of the world's population. Forgetting that love is above logic...grace above the law...acts of kindness better than supposed clever thinking...

      Epicurius - 2011-05-16 20:11

      Once again, how typical of a believer to misconceive that atheists are devoid of morality, hope or love. Your inability to appreciate that people who do not share your belief in fairy stories can live happy fulfilled lives is almost akin to autistm. Stop projecting your uncertainty and fear onto us. You are the ones who cannot function without your imaginary security blanket and dummy. Atheists are as entitled to express their opinions as believers. What we cannot understand is the self-imposed blinkers and blindfolds believers often put on when faced with so many contradictions in the so-called 'perfect' bible, or those condradictions often spewed forth by religious leaders and evangelists. It admittedly does irk us intensely that otherwise intelligent people seem to throw logic and reason out of the window in order to feel happy and content about their lives.

      bepositive - 2011-05-25 11:37

      I apologise for any offensive comments. In the end, I hope you can trust me that my intentions are good for you. In the end, one can reason anything until you believe it, toward truth, or away from it...I hope for everyone to choose truth above all else....we can go back and forth with reasoning, with you most likely to win debate and be more well spoken than myself. I am not here to win any debates. I find peace in knowing what I have experienced, the change in my life when Jesus came a part of it. I have seen this change in people around me and many share the same experience. You speak of contradictions in the bible, or with what believers say. I see it that there is growth in the revelation of who God is, what He said, and how believers perceive Him. No one can claim to interpret the word in its wholeness at this moment in time (1 Cor 13:12-13). Nor is their any believer who practise God's will in its entirety. This is where grace comes in. We are saved by grace alone (Eph 2:8) and cannot earn our salvation. Salvation is often made much harder than it should be...if only people would simply choose it...As for being "irked" about people "believing in order to feel happy and content about their lives" - don't let it bother you. What does it matter if others have hope, even if you only see it as delusional? Consider your own life and have tolerance for those who care about other peoples lives.

  • Helen - 2011-05-18 10:42

    What strikes me as the most salient point of this report is that it was another malfunctioning AIRBUS. Our esteemed President Zuma has recently taken delivery of 3 new Airbusses for our airways. God help us.

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