The now annoyed members of the Pilots Guild of Sri Lankan Airlines ensured that they took matters to their hands and kicked out their existing ‘Pilots Guild’ President Capt. Namal Fernando and his entire committee at an ‘Ordinary General Meeting’ called recently. The Senior Pilots of the national carrier who spoke to Colombo Telegraph said they were ‘miffed’ that the airlines new Chairman Ajit Dias and his newly appointed ‘Board of Directors’ had continued to keep quiet after the national carrier which was probed by the government and exposed in the ‘Weliamuna Report’ had revealed some shocking details about their Flight Operations Head.
The members of Pilots Guild who had called for an OGM then replaced their Guild President Capt.Namal Fernando and handed over the reins to a new committee headed by Capt.Renuka Senanayake, Vice President Capt. Hiran Rajapaksa and Secretary Capt. Anura Abeysekara in the hope that they would run the guild in a more efficient and ethical manner.
In Lawyer J.C. Weliamuna’s damning report it was highlighted that Chief Operations Officer Capt. Druvi Perera had ordered his former Manager Training and Standards Capt. Patrick Fernando and his deputy Capt. Ranga Amadoru to lower the pass mark in order to recruit two cadet pilots who had failed to make the mark at the cadet pilot intake. Captains Fernando and Amdoru whose immediate resignations in protest of their COO’s request sent the pilots off on a ‘work to rule’ that crippled the airline further, which had to even cancel certain scheduled flights then. “Our COO Capt. Druvi Perera took off to Bahrain for a week to attend a tennis tournament his son was taking part in during a crisis situation the airline was experiencing at the time” said a Pilot. He went on to conclude “COO Capt. Druvi Perera on his arrival to Colombo from Bahrain a week later refused to meet us the Members of the Pilot’s Guild but chose to go directly for third days play of the Royal / Thomian ‘big match’ instead”.
The CCO Capt. Druvi subsequently met with the airline’s Pilots the following day to help resolve the issue.
The ‘Weliamuna Report’ also highlighted the COO Capt. Druvi’s pilot related incident on landing in Chennai where he skidded off the runway, removing the fixed runway lights which he subsequently hushed up before it was brought to light many years later. Weliamuna’s report went on to say that this incident was not even filed in the COO’s personal records.
This incident was exposed by Colombo Telegraph first and was later investigated by the Board of Inquiries who documented the full incident in their final report.
“The manner in which we are been managed at present is rather shocking especially by those who have been politically appointed by the previous regime and who remain still in control” said another Senior Pilot who wished to remain anonymous, as they are barred from speaking to the media.
It is a known fact now that even the current Manager Training and Standards Capt. Upul Samarakoon was in command of the aircraft where he along with COO Capt. Druvi Perera pushed back without obtaining Air Traffic Control (ATC) clearance on a VVIP flight with the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa on board during the latter part of 2014.
“What shocks many now is that the COO Capt. Druvi Perera’s appointed Manager Flight / Ground Safety Capt. Keminda Yahampath is a professional who has displayed incompetence as a pilot himself from the inception. His intake as a cadet pilot initially was also completed under controversial circumstances when he did not meet the required mark at entry level as a cadet and was rejected by the then Head of Flight Operations(HFO) Capt. Chira Fernando. Capt. Fernando himself resigned from his post in protest after orders from the top had overridden his decision which ordered the cadet Pilot Yahampath to be recruited.” the Senior Pilot said.
As the Head of Flight Operations Capt. Chira Fernando’s hunch about the now Manager Flight / Ground Safety Manager Capt.Yahampath’s competence as a pilot proved to be correct when he eventually ended up dropping the aircraft from a considerable height on his approach and landing into Trivandrum in India which resulted in the bursting of tires of the aircraft. What was more detrimental is that he taxied the aircraft to the parking bay thereafter with deflated tires which could have sparked off a subsequent fire due to the friction it could have caused.
However in another informed incident Capt.Yahampath had nearly run over a Ground Engineer in Colombo when he taxied the aircraft almost immediately after the Ground Engineer had disconnected the Ground Power Unit (GPU). The standard practice is that the Ground Engineer disconnects the GPU and walks away before signaling a ‘thumbs up’ for the Captain to then taxi the aircraft meaning ‘all is clear’. In this instance the shocked Ground Engineer had run for his dear life when Capt.Yahampath violated a Standard Operating Procedure and the main Landing Gear of the aircraft was fast approaching towards him.
“You cannot blame the Pilot Members of the Guild for acting in this manner and their attempt in trying to get their house in order” said a prominent pilot of the airline. “Our COO Capt. Druvi Perera proved to be unsafe on ground as well as in the sky and so has our Manager Flight / Ground Safety Capt. Keminda Yahampath too. Capt.Upul Samarakoon our Manager Training and Standards is also guilty of a violation after his ‘push back’ incident with the COO on board. But they just hang on to their powerful positions in spite of their commonly known incidents” conclude the Senior Pilot.
What will now be interesting is to see is if the Minister of Aviation will go on to get Lawyer J.C.Weliamuna to investigate the national carrier’s Chairman Ajit Dias and his current ‘Board of Directors’ as well as for their reluctance to act upon the BOI’s findings and punish that have now being exposed.