AF pilot shares challenges faced in Afghanistan evacuation mission
The crowd quickly escalated as the aircraft landed in Islamabad, thereby driving the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister to take the decision of postponing the pick-up for one up to a couple days.Jakarta (ANTARA) - Indonesian Air Force (TNI AU) pilots and crew faced some challenges while evacuating Indonesian citizens (WNI) from Kabul, Afghanistan, pilot Major Mulyo Hadi disclosed here on Saturday.
The first challenge was the swelling crowds at Hamid Karzai airport in Kabul and Islamabad airport in Pakistan, which prevented control and navigation from functioning optimally at Hamid Karzai airport after the Taliban took control of the government in Afghanistan, he informed.
“The obstacles we faced were especially the updated data from the runways of Hamid Karzai international airport as well as the unpredictable condition in runway areas," he said.
“The crowd quickly escalated as the aircraft landed in Islamabad, thereby driving the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister to take the decision of postponing the pick-up for one up to a couple days,” said Hadi, quoted by TNI AU’s information service.
Finally, the crew members obtained complete data pertaining to the prevailing conditions at Hamid Karzai airport and the team decided to fly to Kabul on Friday (August 20, 2021), he informed.
The decision was made after the aircraft obtained landing clearance from authorities in Kabul on Friday, he said.
The flight took off at 4.33 a.m local time from Islamabad, with the crew expecting the airport to be quiet, so that the evacuation would be conducive, Hadi added.
“During the evacuation, (we noticed) the site was surrounded by mountains with a runway height of 5,877 feet above sea level. Moreover, the airport’s navigation assistance facilities (ILS, VOR), night facilities, and air traffic services did not function optimally, leading the crew to face serious challenges when the aircraft approached Hamid Karzai (airport),” he explained.
The runway at the airport was mostly dark when the aircraft landed at dawn as the sun had not risen and the lights were not fully turned on, he said.
“Landing in Kabul was the biggest challenge for all crew members of the A-7305 aircraft,” he added.
After the aircraft landed, the evacuation team immediately helped 26 Indonesian nationals and seven foreigners to board the plane.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as the interim authority of airports in Kabul, had given a limited time for evacuation, Hadi said.
The team had previously scheduled the evacuation mission for 30 minutes, but the process ran for two hours, he added.
During the evacuation, not all Indonesian citizens’ belongings could be loaded onto the aircraft, he informed.
“For the sake of mutual safety, we limited luggage to only carry-on luggage, so we apologize to Indonesian citizens and foreigners because not all of their luggage could enter the plane," he told the evacuated Indonesian citizens and foreigners.
The Boeing 737 Series 400 aircraft belonging to Air Squadron 17 of TNI AU left Halim Perdanakusuma Air Base in Jakarta on August 18, 2021. The flight from Jakarta to Kabul took almost 72 hours considering the long route and the stop in Islamabad, Hadi said.
About 10 members from the 17 Air Squadron of TNI AU were deployed as crew members along with two pilots—Major Mulyo Hadi and Lt. Col Ludwig Bayu.
Six members from 90 Bravo Unit of TNI AU’s special troops were also involved in the evacuation of the Indonesian citizens from Kabul.
The evacuation team comprised personnel from TNI AU, the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), and the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Major Hadi expressed his pride in the 17th Air Squadron, which was trusted with the task of evacuating and rescuing Indonesian citizens in the midst of the escalating situation in Afghanistan.
August 21, 2021, 2:32 pm