SriLankan pilots warn again of safety issue on Colombo-Delhi night flights
SriLankan Airlines Pilots have warned the country’s civil aviation chief that a late night flight to New Delhi with a return next morning could cause them fatigue and endanger flight safety.
Though within “prescriptive limits,” the “flight pattern” as a roundtrip is technically called, they have said “would not be acceptable” without a layover (an overnight stay) or re-schedule of flight hours. This is because of the growing number of Air Ground Safety Reports (AGSR) filed by pilots. A total of 19 such reports had been filed over fatigue after 27 “flight patterns.”
The pilots’ concerns are contained in a letter Captain Ruwan Vithanage, President of the Airline Pilots Guild of Sri Lanka (AAPGSL), sent last week to H.M.C. Nimalasiri, Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka seeking his “intervention in a matter of importance to flight safety.”
The Guild has said that for the past four months, SriLankan Airlines has been operating from Colombo to New Delhi flight UL 197 and UL 198 (return). The reporting time for pilots has been 23.35 (or 11.35 pm.) and a return to Colombo at 0845 (or 8.45 a. m.)
When the pattern was first proposed by SriLankan Management, according to Captain Vithanage, the timing was similar to pilots flying the Colombo-Singapore-Kuala Lumpur-Bangkok sectors “which had in the past numerous fatigue reports in the form of AGSRs.” As a result, he has pointed out, all those flights had layovers (or overnight stays) introduced.
In the Colombo-Delhi sector, Captain Vithanage points out that
Captain Vithanage has lamented that “we have not been informed by the company that either of these mitigation measures are being adopted and the flight continues as before.”
“At the company's request, the FSAG (Flight Safety Advisory Group) agreed to try out this flight pattern with an additional crew member provided for fatigue mitigation but not rest.” This meant a three-person crew at the cockpit instead of the pilot and the co- pilot.
Captain Vithanage added “However, at the last FSAG meeting held on 4th September 2017, the safety team informed the group that 19 AGSRs reporting fatigue had been filed on the first 27 patterns. Therefore the committee unanimously agreed that the only realistic courses of action were either a significantly different time of departure, or the introduction of a layover.
Captain Vithanage has lamented that “we have not been informed by the company that either of these mitigation measures are being adopted and the flight continues as before.” He has warned that “We believe that this ignoring of a unanimous decision taken by the FSAG is a grave violation of the Airline's Safety Management System” and added that “we feel it is our duty to bring this matter to your notice, as we would also be complicit in a safety violation if we remained silent in the face of an unprecedented number of AGSRs.”
In a separate letter to Captain Suren Ratwatte, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SriLankan Airlines, Captain Vithanage has also said among other matters that: The Safety Department, following the guidelines required by the CAASL on our Safety Management System (SMS), has noted through stipulated analysis methods that this pattern, coupled with the current timings, is unacceptable as it is a violation of the guidelines. Therefore, as of 4th September 2017, the Airline is in direct violation of not immediately addressing a highlighted matter of flight safety, as required by the SMS, mandated by the CAASL (Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka). In a second letter, the AAPGSL has told SriLankan CEO, “We appreciate your acceptance to submit by the end of October 2017 a request to the board of directors for a layover to be commenced by the 1st of December 2017.”