Man stows away on Garuda Indonesia flight to see Jokowi
Man stows away on Garuda Indonesia flight to see Jokowi


Is meeting the president worth traveling almost 1,000 km in a plane's landing gear dock?

JAKARTA, Indonesia — President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s popular appeal is a apparently strong enough to motivate a man to sneak into a plane and fly 949 kilometers while sitting in the landing gear dock. 

Mario Steve Ambarita, 21, was caught on Tuesday, April 7, as he emerged from a Garuda Indonesia plane that had just landed at the Soekarno-Hatta International airport. What made him suspicious was the fact that he was exiting from the plane’s wheel well, and not through the door like everyone else. 

Mario admitted that he snuck into the plane before it took off from the Sultan Syarif Kasim II airport in Pekanbaru, Riau, in western Indonesia.

And that he stayed in the wheel well during the 105-minute flight. 

But he arrived alive and well in Jakarta. The airport clinic said Mario was fine but perhaps needed to recover from his unusual ordeal.

Jokowi fan

So what prompted Mario to do such a reckless thing? He said he simply wanted to see Jakarta, where he was born, and meet his long time idol — the president.

Mario’s mother, Tiar Boru Sitanggang, who lives in the poor district of Rokan Hilir in Riau, was shocked to find out what her son had been up to. Apparently, Mario only told her he was going to the provincial capital, Pekanbaru, to try to look for a job.  

“My son really likes Jokowi. He has been telling me that he wants to see Jokowi for a long time now, but we never thought he’d be so reckless,” she told

Sultan Syarif Kasim II International Airport Riau. Photo by Kopassus1234/Creative Commons

Security breach 

While it seemed harmless, Mario’s stunt raised questions about security in the airport. 

“We don’t know how he was able to enter the (restricted) area,” Garuda Indonesia’s vice president for corporate communications, Pujobroto, told

When he was questioned, Mario apparently said he learned how to illegally enter a plane through social media and by studying the airport’s operations.

“He knew that the plane would stop for a moment before taking off. That was when he entered the plane through the wheel,” Pujobroto said.

The incident prompted Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport to decide to install CCTVs in its runways. 

“We’ll put the CCTVs in spots prone (to breaching). It will make monitoring the airport easier,” Col. M. Khairil Lubis, commander of the city’s air force base, told

PT Angkasa Pura II, the state-owned airport operator, has apologized for the incident and said it was ready to accept any recommendations or sanctions from the Transportation Ministry. —

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.