The 16-member crew of SriLankan Airlines ‘Mission Mercy’ to China to rescue 33 trapped Sri Lankan students from novel coronavirus said they voluntarily stepped forward to fly to Wuhan.
SriLankan Airlines Chief Officer Service Delivery (COSD) Captain Rajind Ranatunga said when the need of the hour arose to send a special rescue flight to China, there was an overwhelming response from the entire staff to join the mission.
At a special media briefing held recently in Hilton Colombo to bring forward the act of heroism by all crew members and support staff that took part in Mission Mercy, the top official said they were expecting for voluntary members to join the risky mission.
“As soon as we received the order from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to send a flight to China to repatriate the trapped students, we were expecting voluntary staff members to join this mission concerning the vulnerable nature of it,” he said.
Responding to a query made by Daily Mirror as to whether the country’s national carrier was waiting for any volunteer staffer to dispatch on a flight to China despite its well-organised flight schedules with designated crews for various destinations, Captain Ranatunga said it was actually the other way round where many staff members voluntarily came forward to take part in the life-saving mission.
Chief Pilot of Mission Mercy (SriLankan Airlines flight UL1422 to Wuhan), Captain Chaminda de Zoysa said they were no heroes to have succeeded in this rescue operation with a humble satisfaction. “We had to carefully select the team as all top crew members voluntarily came forward to accomplish this mission,” he said.
Meanwhile, SriLankan Airlines Flight Safety Manager Captain Anushke Jeewandara said no injustice had been caused to their family members in the aftermath of the mercy mission despite social media reports suggesting otherwise.
He was responding to social media reports that the family members of the crew, who volunteered to operate the airline’s mission of mercy that brought back Sri Lankan students from Wuhan, China, were faced with injustice in society.
Addressing a news briefing, he said they had also witnessed certain reports that their family members especially the children were facing inconvenience at schools.
“I should categorically mention that neither our family members nor our children are faced with any injustice,” he said.
Moreover, Captain Chaminda de Zoysa, the Chief Pilot of Flight UL1423 said they were not heroes but they just did their durt.
“There were other pilots and crew members, who must have been willing to engage in this journey. However, in the end, it happened to us. So, we are happy with the duty we did,” de Zoysa said.
“When I said this to my wife, she asked why you are going there. Then, when I said what we would have done, if our children had been there, she gave me the permission to fly, replying to a question posed by a journalist, Captain de Zoysa said.
Meanwhile, responding to another question raised by a journalist whether it was a normal flight, Chief Officer Service Delivery Captain Rajind Ranatunga said it was a normal flight under abnormal circumstances.
“We were able to rescue 33 Sri Lankan citizens from the coronavirus epicenter in Wuhan,’ Captain Ranatunga said.
“We would like to express our special thanks to the Sri Lanka Air Force for their close cooperation which sent its BioMedical Team to Mattala and provided SriLankan with all the equipment needed to make this mission a success,” he said.
“The mission of mercy was carried out on the instruction of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Flight UL1423 landed at the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport shortly after dawn following its extremely long turnaround flight from Colombo to Wuhan and back and the students were handed over to the care of health authorities and other relevant institutions, including the armed forces, for necessary procedures,” Ranatunga added.
Aircraft Technician Rumesh Pathiraja, Licensed Aircraft Engineer Lalitha Pathberiya, Chief Pilot Captain Chamindra de Zoysa, Chief Officer Service Delivery Captain Rajind Ranatunga, Flight Safety Manager Captain Anushke Jeewandara, Purser Farhaan Haniffa and Cabin Service Supervisor Jenaly Janasz, were seen at the head table of the media briefing. (Kurulu Koojana Kariyakarawana, Sheain Fernandopulle and Dinali Wijayasooriya)