SriLankan pilots warn again of safety is­sue on Colombo-Delhi night flights

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS -

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.”

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