MIRI: Helicopter pilots operating in interior outposts in Sarawak can make on-the-spot independent decisions such as whether to take off or not without having to consult or seek permission from their clients or head office.
They have the right to turn down their clients’ request to take off or land in any particular place using their own judgment based on the prevailing circumstances of the place they are in, said Hornbill Skyways chief executive officer Aidan Wing.
He was asked to comment on the ill-fated helicopter flight taken by Sidang Injil Borneo Church president Pastor Kalib Besar.
Pastor Kalib was allowed to board the helicopter to Mount Murud on Thursday evening even though the weather then was apparently rather bad.
Wing said he did not know what had happened there at that time.
The top priority for pilots in the interior is safety, not their clients’ urgency, he said.
“Helicopter pilots in the interior have the right to make decisions on the spot and they don’t have to refer to the head office for permission.
“The only thing they must consider is whether the situation is right for taking off or landing based on the weather condition and visibility range.
“If the weather is bad, they can refuse to fly,” he said in an interview yesterday.
Pastor Kalib was killed along with pilot Capt Gabriel Buja when their helicopter crashed on the mountain slope just two kilometres after taking off from a timber camp deep in the interior of Limbang Division.
They were heading towards a retreat centre located some 2,000m near the peak of the 2,500m Mount Murud, the highest mountain in Sarawak.
The Bell 206 helicopter they used belonged to Hornbill Skyways, an aviation company owned wholly by the Sarawak government.
State assemblyman for Telang Usan, Lihan Jok, had said the initial probe indicated that the helicopter ploughed into some trees on the mountain slope due to poor visibility caused by bad weather.
Wing said Capt Buja was a very experienced pilot who had many years of experience flying in the Royal Malaysian Air Force and was involved in many flight services, including rescue missions by air.
The pilot also took part in the mission to rescue a group of British soldiers trapped near Mount Kinabalu in 1994 and later received a British award for his bravery.
The Department of Civil Aviation has sent their technical experts to check the wreckage and investigate the cause of the crash, Wing added.
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