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Sri Lankan pilot crisis results in huge losses

27 March 2013 04:49 am - 37     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


The simmering crisis within Sri Lankan Airlines surrounding the lowering of cut off marks to accommodate two extra cadet pilots has resulted in losses running ‘into millions’ of rupees for the country’s national carrier and continued disruption of flights the Daily Mirror learns.

Regular flights have been disrupted and delayed during the past three weeks as a result of pilots and instructors of the airline deciding to ‘work to the roster’.

Sri Lankan Airlines are currently understaffed for pilots and Instructors and therefore each pilot is requested to take up flights which they were not initially scheduled to take up.

Certain long distance flights have been delayed for long hours and flights have been grounded as a result causing heavy losses to the Air Lines and inconveniencing passengers flying the national carrier.

The technical issues arising out of the delays, with additional fuel costs, airway booking slots, and slots for arrival in airports due to the delay have to be borne by Sri Lankan together with accommodation for passengers and other ensuing costs.

It is learnt that the country’s national carrier prior to the recent standoff continued to suffer losses to the tune of “hundreds of millions of dollars”.

There has been no positive outcome following a crucial meeting held on March 15 between the Pilots Guild together with the Flight operations senior management led by Druvi Perera(COO )and Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

The most recent issue arose after two additional cadet pilots were recruited after lowering the marks for the simulator test- a mandatory requirement for all pilot recruits- from 70 to 65.

The initial recruits on March 1 were informed that they had passed the simulator aptitude test. On March 3 (Sunday) two additional candidates were informed that they have also been selected and were also informed to be present for the final interview.

It is believed that the two recruits had not achieved the minimum pass mark of 70.

The Airline Pilot Guild of Sri Lanka(ALPGSL) which comprises all pilots flying for the national carrier had called for an emergency meeting after being informed of the recruitment, and later decided to “fly to roster” until the decision to recruit the two additional cadet  pilots who supposedly did not attain the competency level be suspended.

Almost immediately after the decision to recruit the two candidates was taken, the Chief Pilot Training and Standards Captain Patrick Fernando and his Deputy Captain Ranga Amadoru resigned in protest.

Adding a twist to saga on March 6, three days after the cut off marks were lowered, Minister Priyankara Jayarathne in a letter to the CEO of Sri Lankan Airlines, said “I hereby direct you to revise the Cadet Pilot selection cut off mark in order that you facilitate more deserving Sri Lankan nationals to join the airline”.
In the ensuing melee the  flight instructors of Sri Lankan Airlines  who are in charge of training Pilots, in a letter signed by its membership, to the Chief Operating Officer of Sri Lankan Airlines expressed their “ disagreement towards the higher managements’ hastened decision to lower the selection criteria” and later decided to work to the roster.

The Daily Mirror also learns that the batch of nine cadet pilots who were recruited in August 2012 are yet to complete their training as a result of the issue.
Speaking to Daily Mirror President of the Pilots Guild Captain Ruwan Vithanage said that the pilots are in favour of the policy to recruit more Lankan nationals, but it should be in line with the stipulated criteria.

“The lack of proper aptitude and competency among recruits is a huge risk for any airline. We are fully supportive of the government’s efforts to nationalize the career but it should be done with transparency to a set standard which our airline has proudly upheld for over three decades” he said.

The President of the guild went on to state that the Pilots are currently undertaking the duty which is within the ambit of the Flight Operations Senior Management.

Capt. Vithanage speaking further said that the Pilots have continued to be fully supportive of the government’s efforts and have overridden the guilds policy decision to ‘fly by the roster’, during the recent opening of the Maththala Rajapaksa International Airport.

CEO says issue will be resolved soon

We have met the Pilots, and we are having broad-based discussions with them unlike what was reported in the papers. We are looking for solutions to certain problems to give Sri Lankan national pilots more opportunity. There was difference in opinion, and one was that by lowering some cut off marks we were lowering the standards of the cadet training programme.

“There is no such attempt and no interference in the programme. We only looked at having a bigger pool, given the shortage of officers that we experienced. We understand what the pilots say and the requirements of the government as well. The government requires more Lankan nationals serving as pilots in the airlines. I am sure we could resolve the issue soon, but it won’t happen a in a day or two.

However, Mr. Chandrasena declined to comment on the losses suffered by the airline.

“We are planning a media engagement within the next week or two and that will give you the total picture and how we are progressing” he said. (Hafeel Farisz)
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  Comments - 37

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  • HKS Thursday, 28 March 2013 01:38 AM


    Alpenrock Thursday, 28 March 2013 01:43 AM

    this company was running in good condtion untill MAHINDA RAJAPAKSE;s Farther in law became the chairman. oops did say Farther in law?

    BM Wednesday, 27 March 2013 09:06 AM

    If there is a shortage of pilots we can send paper planes to Mattala, ha ha

    ANTON Wednesday, 27 March 2013 09:14 AM

    Will they go on strike while the plane is in the sky.

    srilankan Wednesday, 27 March 2013 12:00 AM

    typical srilanka there's always something wrong somewhere via DM Android App

    John Hanson Thursday, 28 March 2013 06:45 AM

    Emirates does not want a penny from its investment or nether a investment in UL.

    UL is a nice institution govt distroyed.

    Yuri Wednesday, 27 March 2013 09:20 AM

    You right, Flights, Airports, Barbour , High Way, smart phone ,tie suit. but third world Mind !!! Its Lanka

    mori Wednesday, 27 March 2013 12:00 AM

    we will hear the news of bankrupt of Srilankan Airlines rather sooner,only for the year of 2012 alone, it lost 25 billion rupees.whos money is this?tax payers money,they serve wth big headed air hostesses.go on a Emirates flight n see hws their service.simply the best.days r counted for Srilankan Airlines. via DM Android App

    Charmaine Thursday, 28 March 2013 02:22 AM

    Emirates having the last laugh

    maray Thursday, 28 March 2013 06:03 PM

    solution:give the chance for selected.give another chance for other two.

    zeylanicus Thursday, 28 March 2013 06:57 AM

    May be some other guy could ' the water to flow upwards..."

    Vickster Wednesday, 27 March 2013 05:04 AM

    Work to the name .... UL = Usually Late

    Tangent Wednesday, 27 March 2013 05:06 AM

    Todays modern aircrafts fly using sophisticated electronic equipment and need little intervention by the pilot. The danger is should something go wrong and there is an inexperience pilot. This happened to an Air France flight and the aircraft went down. As such it is better to keep off Sri Lankan if you value your life.

    weha Wednesday, 27 March 2013 05:08 AM

    are they trying to bring SLA down and bring up Mihin?

    Oswin Peiris Wednesday, 27 March 2013 05:13 AM

    The reduction of requirements for the simulator test is shocking. Don't the authorities realize that they are playing with the lives of passengers. It is shocking, to say the least, that international requirements are been compromised. If the prospective airline passengers hear of this they would definitely not want to travel risking their lives in this airline.

    John Wednesday, 27 March 2013 08:18 AM

    If Emirates want SLn back?!

    kay parker Wednesday, 27 March 2013 05:18 AM

    What about the BAD inflight service....

    Lumbini Wednesday, 27 March 2013 05:20 AM

    This is nothing new. Wherever we go, there are malpractices in this country.

    prf Wednesday, 27 March 2013 11:29 AM

    what about chinese pilot's?

    Mara Yaka Wednesday, 27 March 2013 05:24 AM

    Please do not compromise on the Standards that has been set in the past by Sri Lankan Airline, we need to be proud and fly high!

    Flying Dutchman Wednesday, 27 March 2013 10:00 AM

    One important thing the Captain who successfully ditched a plane in Hudson NY said is that he doesn't think that a modern pilot would be able to do the feat he did. He was referring to the lack of old school training's where the cadets are trained not only on the flight instruments but also on the dynamics and physics related with flying. True that the modern aircraft's are built with the state of the art technology but what matters is how capable the men and women flying them when they fail.
    Safety is not something you cannot compromise, Sri Lankan is already suffering losses in massive numbers it'll just take one fetal or a near miss to send the company bankrupt within days.

    Countryman Wednesday, 27 March 2013 05:28 AM

    All these issues started once the management was taken up by the government from Emirates. So called political managers must be held responsible for the immense damages

    tony Wednesday, 27 March 2013 05:28 AM

    Why not hand back the management to EK for better performance.

    MONKEY JOE Wednesday, 27 March 2013 08:25 AM

    Word "crisis" has to be voted as "WORD OF THE YEAR 2013" in Sri Lanka.

    Buffaloa Citizen Wednesday, 27 March 2013 05:36 AM

    The losses are nothing compared to when the Presidents takes his henchmen on a joy ride.

    OMG Wednesday, 27 March 2013 05:40 AM

    Replace them with our three wheel drivers.

    They are good at driving at supersonic speeds in traffic clogged Colombo roads.

    cocohead Wednesday, 27 March 2013 05:41 AM

    "I hereby direct you to revise the Cadet Pilot selection cut off mark in order that you facilitate more deserving Sri Lankan nationals to join the airline" What sort of a ridiculous statement is that? How can they be 'Deserving' when they get through after lowering the marks?????

    KD Wednesday, 27 March 2013 11:47 AM

    Like the Police force the BBS will have the pilots too who will fly the nation in a one way ticket to hell.

    evergoodheart Thursday, 28 March 2013 05:32 AM

    When pilots sons and son in laws are recruited,marks and age limits going up and down. Thats a marffia.Then procedeures should strictly followed for everybody.

    Ranjan Wednesday, 27 March 2013 10:30 AM

    Ever since the Emirates management contract was not renewed, Sri Lankan Airlines has gone down hill.
    No thanks to our stupid politicians!

    Suba angathayak!

    ANTON Wednesday, 27 March 2013 05:55 AM

    I think private bus drivers are better than pilots.

    Ranjit. S Wednesday, 27 March 2013 05:58 AM

    All what we hear in SL is the word crisis. UNHRC, TN, Electricity,Opening of Mattalla etc are all leading to this word.

    indian johnna Wednesday, 27 March 2013 10:35 AM

    Okay its balancing now India, Tamil Nadu is mixing politics and we are mixing professionalism and politics.

    Good Luck

    Kodituwakkuarachchi Wednesday, 27 March 2013 06:04 AM

    If someone can fix wings to "inter-city" buses they could reach London faster than the fastest Airbus available.

    sampath Wednesday, 27 March 2013 06:05 AM


    TrueFacts Thursday, 28 March 2013 06:02 AM

    Sir you have to realize that the competency of the SriLankan Airlines pilot's are not the issue at hand. It is the political meddling in the recruitment process that is the issue here.
    I can assure you that SriLankan airlines has the best flight training and standards in the region. Pilots in general from day one have to learn about the dynamics of flying and do all the initial training on old school aircraft which require airmanship in it's purest form.
    SriLankan has long been a feeder airline of pilots for airlines across the globe, and are known to produce some of the best airmen in the industry.
    So be rest assured about the people in the industry. They just want to be left alone to do their job without interference.

    silverhawk Wednesday, 27 March 2013 12:00 AM

    emirates has a new partner quantus. I don't think they want sl anymore via DM Android App

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