God is My Co-Pilot: Tunisan Pilot Sentenced for Praying in Midst of Accident Rather Than Taking Emergency Procedures

oldertuninterlogoAn Italian court has sentenced a Muslim pilot, Chafik Garbi, who, in the midst of an emergency landing, stopped to pray rather than taking emergency measures. The accident about the ATR prop aircraft resulted in 16 deaths in Sicily.
He was convicted of manslaughter.

The fuel gauge installed on the aircraft was not for that particular model, resulting in the plane running out of gas in midair.

To the shock of the passengers, when the gas cut out, Chafik Barbi, a Tunisian, broke into prayer rather than taking steps to prepare the aircraft for the emergency landing. He has been sentenced to jail for 10 years along with his co-pilot.

Five employees of Tuninter were sentenced to between eight and nine years in jail by the court.

This may be a good argument for an only-atheist pilot policy for some passengers. There is something to say for having a pilot who has nothing to look forward to in a crash situation.

Some pilots, however, have defended the men –saying that they were flying the aircraft the whole time and that accounts by the BBC and others is misleading.

For the full story, click here and here.

25 thoughts on “God is My Co-Pilot: Tunisan Pilot Sentenced for Praying in Midst of Accident Rather Than Taking Emergency Procedures”

  1. Buddha,
    Sorry for my persistence but I’m currently re-reading the Baroque Cycle and it’s better than the first time, which was great in and of itself. A tip on it, related to my excitement at page 340 in the first book of the Cycle “Quicksilver” begins the story of “Half-Cocked” Jack Shaftoe, the King of the Vagabonds, who is one of the great picaresque characters of all time. you will discover that the Baroque Cycle is in a strange way a prequel to Cryptonomicon, but one need not read one to enjoy the other since they are separated by 300 years.

    I’ll check Sigler out on your recommendation, but I’ve still got 1,200 or so pages to go on the Baroque Cycle and I’m savoring them.

  2. Buddha and Mike,

    Got another Sci-Fi recommendation (although it could also be considered horror): “Infected” by Scott Sigler. It gets a little gory at some points, but Sigler went out of his way to make the science accurate.

  3. Gyges,

    Bohr is one of my favorite characters in physics and anywhere else for that matter. Got to love those zany Danes! Contraria sunt complementa, indeed.


    Will do as soon as I finish Cryptonomicon.

  4. Tabby Badger, thanks for the insightful link.
    A reply is being restrained in peragtoryville, awaiting moderation.

  5. Reuters is fabricating and sensationalizing this fatal accident.
    The BBC picked up on Reuters sloppy and biased reporting.

    The flight deck recording shows that these pilots flew the plane the entire time.

    Tabby Badger, thanks for the insightful links.

    The final report of Italian Aviation Safety Board
    “Accident involved aircraft ATR 72, registration marks TS-LBB
    ditching off the coast of Capo Gallo (Palermo – Sicily), August 6th 2005”:

    Professional pilots have some harsh comments for the Italian Judiciary, Reuters and the general state of Italian Aviation:

    The captain and co-pilot did fail to verify or justify the amount of fuel taken on for this leg of their work Vs what their instruments were indicating.

  6. I’ve thought about fatalism for a long time and I think it has many paradoxical aspects. First when my friend says it’s the christian god’s will that her husband died, I think she believes this, but I think one important reason she believes this is she is absolutely overwhelmed by the circumstances of her husband’s death and the fact that he died. The circumstances were so horrific that I think this is the one way she can cope with what happened. I can understand why she would choose it, even though I don’t agree with it.

    Likewise when my other friend told me the jewish god had saved her from agressive cancer, it’s true, that I may have wanted very much to point out that that is an awful belief system. That means god spared her but took out many other people in a very painful manner. That’s a truly ugly vision of god but I don’t think I should say anything like that to her, because she was scared out of her mind and that was her coping mechanism. Do I wish people would use a reality based coping mechanism, yes I do. But I don’t think the middle of a disaster is any time to have a discussion on the implications of a belief system. At this level of fear and suffering, it’s whatever gets the person through.

    People in a battlefield may take a fatalistic attitude to survive a place which is completely random, terrifying and full of death. Here’s where I see the paradox most clearly. Sometimes being fatalistic frees you up to do things that might save your life. In other words, you might believe that whatever will happen will happen, but you can still duck under the rock when the round comes your way.

    The fatalism of this pilot was wrong. If he’s in his own plane and wants to go down doing nothing but praying to the moslim god, then he should do it. But he had other people to consider. Even the most fatalistic person should care about others. If they think there is no hope, fine, think it. But doing nothing is not acceptable towards others (as Buddha pointed out).

    I wish that people would realistically assess situations. To me, that gives everyone the best chance of seeing an opening in a desperate situation.

  7. Maybe if the pilot had prayed before the accident, he would have been able to prevent the accident. If you believe that, I have a bridge to nowhere to sell you.

  8. The only intelligent response to fatalism is laughter. If he’s still around by then, I’m hoping that Michael Franks can be persuaded to attend my funeral and sing “Popsicle Toes.”

  9. Buddha,
    Leibniz thought Newton’s clockwork universe was crazy and invented calculus about the same time. See Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle.

  10. Buddha,

    Let’s recall Bohr’s reported response to Einstein:
    “Stop telling God what to do with his dice.”

  11. Fatalism is in its own way a demeaning of God since it makes the Deity into a vast puppeteer putting on a show for his own amusement. Religionists who don’t get that are unfit to call themselves religious.

  12. Jill,

    Nice job. I would like to point out that science has been guilty of fatalism too. The Newtonian clockwork universe was dependent on fatalism and determinism. Einstein said, in a letter to Max Born, “Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the ‘old one’. I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice.” Well that inner voice was simply denial on Einstein’s part. Rebellion at his own intellectual child when Heisenberg demonstrated that randomness is embedded in the fabric of the universe. Although Einstein made great progress beyond the scope of Newton, he was still very much a child of Newton. You can see, however, examples of him grappling with this issue in some of his statements about the nature of God, in particular, his statements about Spinoza’s God.

    But you are correct fatalism is danger that can lead to disaster. I was always taught that the only failure is in not making the attempt for it is better to regret something you have done than to regret something you have left undone.

  13. chimene,

    I find this to be true of most every religion. My friend just died and his wife tells me everyday that it was the christian god’s will. Actually it was a horrifying case of hospital negligence. New Age books are full of writers telling women who get cancer that they “choose” to get it. My friend who is Jewish told me her god had spared her from agressive cancer. Many of the eastern religions attribute poverty or ill-health to past life karma and so on. To me, fatalism is part of the reason Marx called religion the opiate of the masses. Many people in really desperate circumstances are fatalistic because it may be the only way they can get through the hour. Obviously in this case and many others, fatalism is quite dangerous. When we can’t see or won’t try a way out because of that belief, then it becomes the disaster we see in this story.

  14. Unfortunately, in innumerable ways, Islam is a very fatalistic philosophy. “What Allah wills, will be”

  15. Mike, I got a similar laugh from JT’s witty comment, albeit from an atheist’s perspective.

  16. “There is something to say for having a pilot who has nothing to look forward to in a crash situation.”

    Gave me a laugh and actually wise words.

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