An Indonesian budget airline has fired a pilot suspected of trying to fly a plane while he was drunk, and two of its executives are resigning.
Citilink president director Albert Burhan announced on Friday that he and the airline’s production director would resign over the incident. Citilink is a subsidiary of national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia.
Passengers became suspicious when they heard slurred words and unclear announcements from the cockpit. Some of them left the plane and asked for a replacement of the pilot they believed to be either drunk or under drug influence.
Citilink assigned a new pilot to fly the Airbus A320 about an hour behind schedule. The flight had 154 passengers but a number reportedly decided to cancel.
The flight on Wednesday was heading from Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, to the capital, Jakarta. Aviation is a main mode of travel in the sprawling nation of 17,000 islands, and the incident has raised safety concerns.
YouTube footage showed the pilot appeared to stagger through a metal detector at a security checkpoint and security guards picked up his belongings that were falling on the floor as he seemed out of control.
“The pilot had committed serious violation of standard operation procedure that endangered passengers,” Burhan said. “We apologise for the discomfort. I have to be responsible for that and therefore I and my production director resign.”
The airline previously had dismissed reports that the 32-year-old pilot Tekad Purna was drunk, saying initial tests of drug and alcohol were negative.
Director general of Air Transportation Suprasetyo has asked Citilink to make sure the pilot underwent a medical check.
Purna is under investigation for possible drunkenness or drug use. Minister of Transportation Budi Karya has banned him from flying pending the outcome of the investigation. If proven, his license would be revoked.
In December last year, three crew members, a pilot and two flight attendants were arrested for allegedly consuming crystal methamphetamine, known locally as shabu-shabu, at a hotel.
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Citilink president director Albert Burhan (right) speaks to state-owned airport operator Angkasa Pura II general manager for Supadio Airport in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, on December 1st, in front of a Citilink aircraft prepared to serve the airline's maiden flight from the city to Batam, Riau Islands.
Less than 72 hours after reports of an allegedly drunk Citilink pilot showing up for work circulated in the public, two top executives of the low-cost carrier announced on Friday their resignation as a gesture of responsibility for the incident.
Speaking to The Jakarta Post on Friday, Citilink vice president of corporate communications Benny S. Butarbutar said that president director Albert Burhan and operational director Hadinoto Soedigno had decided to resign from the company following the incident.
"Pak Albert expressed his intention to resign all of a sudden at the end of a press conference [on Friday] as a form of his responsibility [regarding the case]," he said, adding that the resignation must first get approval by the company’s board of commissioners and its parent company.
Citilink, the low-cost subsidiary of national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia, has been under media spotlight following reports that one of its pilots was possibly under the influence of alcohol while on duty.
The pilot, identified as Capt. Tekad Purna, was relieved on Wednesday after passengers claimed he spoke incoherently during a flight announcement made before takeoff. Many passengers decided to disembark from the plane soon after as they were suspicious that the pilot was drunk.
The incident occurred on Wednesday morning as a Citilink flight prepared to depart from Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, East Java, to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta.
Also on Friday, the airline announced that it had fired Tekad for breaching the procedures, a violation that can endanger the lives of passengers.
The pilot was reported to have undergone a medical test at a clinic in Surabaya, East Java, as well as a second medical test in Jakarta by the Flight Health Agency. The final results of the medical check will be issued in a week.