25 May, 2024


Sri Lankan Airlines – How Safe Are You To Fly?

By Marlon Dale Ferreira

Marlon Dale Ferreira

Marlon Dale Ferreira

The Deputy General and Chief Executive Officer of the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka H.M.C Nimalsiri in a stern email addressed to the Sri Lankan Airlines Chief Executive Officer Kapila Chandrasena earlier, had intimated his displeasure regarding the supposedly committed gross violation of the Air Navigation Regulations and the associated violations of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards by certain pilots of the airline, thereby threatening the safety of the airline’s operating of commercial flights that carry passengers on board.

Nimalsiri’s email refers to Pilots practicing abnormal and emergency situations on commercial flights when these procedures should never be done with lives at stake.

These maneuvers must only be practiced under the watchful eyes of an Instructor and only in a Flight Simulator, he reiterated.

His opening paragraph stating this startling revelation and threatening the safety of our national carrier Sri Lankan Airlines has raised many eye brows, but more importantly raised the question by future travelers as to “how safe is it to fly with Sri Lankan Airlines anymore?”.

His full email sent in January 2015 reads as follows:

Chief Executive Officer,

Sri Lankan Airlines.

Dear CEO,

This office has information that some of the SriLankan pilots deactivate certain functional and vital flight instruments/engines in flight on SriLankan flights engaged in commercial passenger operations, with a view to getting an opportunity to practicing certain abnormal and emergency conditions. If the above information is valid and factual, such actions would not only amount to gross violation of the Air Navigation Regulations and the associated ICAO international standards but also pose a serious threat to flight safety.

If the pilots need practicing abnormal and emergency situations of aircraft to gain more handling experience, they shall use an appropriate simulator for such purposes.

Kindly note that simulating emergency conditions in commercial passenger flights is entirely prohibited and such situations if detected would be dealt with very seriously.

I shall thank you to kindly bring this matter to the immediate notice of all flight crewmembers, although majority of your pilot population is well experienced, law binding, safety conscious and has a deeper sense of reasonability.

Yours faithfully,


Director General of Civil Aviation and,

Chief Executive Officer,

Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka

No.4, Hunupitiya Road, Colombo 02.

Phone: +94 11 2358 802, Fax: + 94 11 2304 706

The seriousness of these blunders comes in the wake of the investigation of the crashed Air Asia flight which operated from Surabaya to Singapore killing all passengers and crew on board.

The initial investigation of that crashed flight as indicated by a prominent newspaper’s website indicates similar trends where our Pilots have been found to be switching off the Initial Reference Systems (IRS) on board, sending the aircraft into an “alternate law mode” requiring manual handling of the aircraft to regain control of the machine in the sky.

AirlankaQuestionable decisions taken by the airline’s senior management, combined with a colossal amount of Pilot related incidents since of late, are the perfect ingredients for a foreseeable disaster in the offing, if not nipped in the bud, as these have now been detected at a very early stage.

Knowledgeable air travelers have opted to choose other airlines for travel as a personal safety precaution.

It is quite understandable that Sri Lankan Airlines will suppress any information to avoid sending panic waves among their intended air travelers, especially their ‘Fly Smiles’ frequent flyer passengers.

For instance sometime back Capt. Druvi Perera the now Chief Operations Officer, when in command and training a First Officer failed to prevent an incident that took place on landing in Chennai India then.

This is when the aircraft that the current Head of Flight Operations Capt.Perera commanded, skidded off the runaway and with it took away the some of the visual aided lights firmly fitted on the airport’s tarmac, causing insurmountable damage to the aircraft but more importantly incurring a huge cost to the airline in terms of delay, re-routing of the passengers from Chennai, repair cost to the aircraft etc.

He was subsequently given a slap on the wrists and a negligible punishment, but more strangely was promoted to the position of “Chief Operations Officer” a job he still holds.

That post never existed before, and was created especially for him by the former Chairman Nishantha Wickramasinghe and the current CEO Kapila Chandrasena as more of a political appointment.

TRIM (weight & balance) issues on 4 Airbus A320 Aircraft

Further shockingly an email sent to the entire Cabin Crew by Senaka De Soysa the Inflight Services Manager (now sidelined to oversee the functions of Catering & Support Services) have revealed that the airline has to increase an additional 150 Kilos of weight in the forward section of certain aircraft to balance its weight for takeoff.

The contents of De Soysa’s email sent to the entire Cabin Crew on the 23rd January 2015 is as follows:

Dear all,

When the load in BC is low, the weight balance on the aircraft for take-off gets affected and is a safety concern. To remedy this, 2 sales carts will be loaded in the BC galley, in place of 2 tray carts during take-off. We have requested SLCS to do the loading in this manner. Please extend your fullest support in ensuring the take-off weight is maintained, by positioning the tray carts back in the BC galley, ONLY AFTER TAKE OFF. This will be on selected flights only, on a day to day basis.(Basically we need 2 heavy carts in front and 2 light carts at the aft for take-off).


Senaka De Soysa

Manager Inflight Service (Catering & Support Services) (Inflight Service Support) | SriLankan Airlines Ltd.Mktg – Service Delivery, Airline Centre, Bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayake, Sri Lanka.

Tel: +94 19733 2648 | Mobile: +94 [Edited out by CT]  | Fax: +94 19733 0094(0)197335262

E-Mail: senaka.desoysa@srilankan.com | Web: www.srilankan.com

Airline sources who wished to remain anonymous revealed that four particular narrow bodied Airbus aircraft arrived with its previously designed seat configuration of 12 Business Class Seats and 138 Economy Class Seats.

However the airline in its quest to increase revenue, decided to fit eight extra seats in Business Class and in the process removed three rows of seats in the forward section of the Economy Cabin for this purpose.

The new seat configuration reads 20 Business Class and 120 Economy seats, which ever since the reconfiguration of the interior cabin took place has been a worrying safety concern for the airline and hence De Soysa’s email to all Cabin Crew.

The same airline sources have now further revealed that they are contemplating to remove four seats in Business Class to counter this issue.

The aircraft causing this concern are registered as 4R ABM, 4R ABN, 4R ABO, 4R ABP.

Passengers will never know if they are travelling on any of these aircraft and can only find out once they get to the departure gate just prior to boarding the aircraft for departure.

By simply looking at the aft (back) of the aircraft’s fuselage (body) and toward the base of the tail they could then identify the painted aircraft registration code as mentioned before.

Some of the commonly known pilot related incidents are found below even though they are supposedly been hushed up.

Incident 1: Pilot trying to simulate an engine failure on takeoff by closing the throttle and thereby mishandling the aircraft, subsequently forgetting to retract the landing gear after take-off on a Trichy to Colombo flight.

Repercussions: Due to the excessive fuel burn caused thereafter due to the ensuing ‘drag’ the aircraft had no choice but return to Trichy. The inquiry which is dragging on has had the Civil Aviation Authority impounding the licenses of both the Captain and First Officer.

Captain in command: Capt. Anupama Pathirane

Questions raised by passengers: What guarantee could the airline provide that this very same pilot who forgot to retract the landing gear would put down the landing gear for the landing in the future?

Incident 2: Flight Deck unmanned due no pilot seated at controls in flight

Situation: Captain in command on a short training flight decides to go to the toilet leaving the new Female Trainee First Officer by herself. The Trainee First Officer detecting bad weather ahead leaves her seat to go look for the captain leaving the Flight Deck unmanned an in auto pilot mode.

Captain in command: Capt. Kosala Ekanayake

Questions raised by passengers: What would have happened if the Flight Deck door got shut leaving both pilots locked out of the Flight Deck?

Incident 3: Pilots deactivating certain functional and vital flight instruments / engines midair on Sri Lankan Airline’s commercial flights and practicing abnormal and emergency conditions as against the laws of ICAO.

Situation: Pilots in Command have been found to be switching off “Air Data Reference Systems” (ADR) switches In Flight on Commercial Flights which sends the aircraft into an alternate law mode. These procedures are only practiced during training and in the Flight Simulator and never on a commercial flight.

Questions raised by passengers: Why are Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) not followed at all times during commercial flights?

Incident 4: Resignation of First Officer Haren Samivel

Situation: Crew Resource Management (CRM) has been compromised as the harmony between the pilots is not healthy at present due to the resignation of First Officer Haren Samivel. It is alleged that he was racially abused by a certain set of pilots with political influence to the point of being verbally abused, verbally threatened and even being physically assaulted finally.

Questions raised by passengers: It has been proven through many safety mediums that many previous accidents and incidents could have been prevented if proper CRM standards were maintained.

Incident 5: Pilot apprehended after being detected to be under the influence of alcohol departing London Heathrow.

Situation: Blood tests reveal he was over the permitted limit. However the investigation is still going on and eight months later the First Officer sits at home without pay. Rumour has it that he may be found guilty for bringing the airline into disrepute and eventually terminated. But the biggest drawback for the airline officials to do so is because the Flight Operations Manual (FOM) has contradicting information about the termination clause for this type of offence.

Incident 6: Captain in command departs London Heathrow without the proper take off calculations disregarding the Standard Operating Procedures and endangering the aircraft and passengers.

Situation: He is reprimanded for this offence as United Kingdom (UK) tabloids highlight this Pilot error and further it was highlighted by British Aviation Authorities. The Captain was eventually made to fly as a “Cruise Pilot” as a punishment. His punishment probably did not go the full distance as for his good luck his niece is married to Johnstone Fernando the Minister in the former Rajapaksa Government.

Captain in Command: Wendall Kelaart

Comment from a former passenger who never flies Sri Lankan Airlines anymore:

It is quite obvious that there are some serious concerns pertaining to this airline not only from a loss making operation but on a more serious flight safety note.

Compromising the safety of the aircraft, the passengers and crew is of grave concern and reports like these only highlight what would usually be hidden away from us passengers.

It would be interesting to see if the new Chairman Ajit Dias would first ensure that his passengers are safe before he could even clean his house is a question is a question that would be anticipated with eventual answers.

I for one would not be contributing towards our national carrier even though I have been a frequent flyer and have generated colossal revenue to the airline since I have been based in Dubai for many decades.

What baffles me even further is that many current pilots of Sri Lankan Airlines are clueless about some of these incidents. Punishing offenders for committing an offence is one thing but sharing of knowledge and increasing CRM among Pilots is the key to prevent further disasters.

By not sharing this information through their Safety Department the Flight Operations Department is actually committing a more heinous crime, which is more of a worrying concern, as professional airlines usually would do otherwise.

S. S from Dubai

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Latest comments

  • 3

    Ignoring the arguments on this thread and addressing the main concern of any person reading this article which is whether it is actually possible for the incidents above to have happened at SriLankan or any other modern airline….

    Although it is true that the pilot has the capability to do all the things alleged in this article while the plane is flying, ALL modern aircraft have a system called FOQA or Flight Data Monitoring (please google these if verification is required) which means that there is a disk called the Quick Access Recorder that is run through a computer after each flight. This QAR records every movement the pilot makes on the control stick as well as every button that is pressed, and every bit of data the pilots enter into the flight management system.

    Each and every abnormal thing that happens be it a pilot flying a bit lower than the flight path he’s supposed to fly or any system deactivated without a fault is flagged and is studied by the airline’s safety department. If something has been done wrong, a panel of instructor pilots are handed over the details and will call up the offender and hold an inquiry. If a person repeatedly violates procedures disciplinary action is taken.

    This system has been mandatory for all international airlines since 2007 and is in place at UL. This makes it impossible in the modern world for any pilot to do any of these things and go undetected. The pilot in command may have the ability to do anything in flight but it is not without accountability unlike before 2007.

    Although the author has written the article with the best of intentions, his sources have clearly misled him as the things spoken of are not possible.

    As regards to a pilot who is above the alcohol limit, it would not be the decision of the airline to punish the offender. Just google Irfan Faiz, a Pakistani pilot who was found over the limit in London. He was jailed for 9 months by the British authorities regardless of whether PIA wanted or not because he had broken British regulations.

    Even if SriLankan wanted to, they couldn’t brush such a matter because the authorities wouldn’t let them.

    I hope this will allay any fears a person may have while flying any airline (not only UL) because these things are impossible nowadays.

    • 7

      Everybody knows how inefficient and corrupt Government departments and corporations are. Why should we believe that SriLankan is any different?

    • 0

      The Pilot got caught at heathrow for having being drunk was an Ex Airforce Pilot who used to fly KFIR with some what strong political connections. He found a way through the FOM to get away and now fly for Mihin Lanka .

      The problem is the lenient steps taken by Personal Licensing. They need to CXL the type and License and let them go, If the pilot breaches then they leave the company and fly somewhere else. Sri Lankan CAA should CXL the license and let them go and find a job. If the same thing had occurred in Qantas or BA the pilot is sacked and doing something else or gone back to GA .

      Another Domestic ex Airforce pilot was in trouble where no Line pilots wanted to fly with him , He was an Ex Volunteer Ex Domestic ,

  • 0

    Ahmed, So it is too much for your intelligence to make sense of the contents of my comment? Do not be disheartened. And no wonder that Marlon could not understand it too. By the way not only could he not understand, he could not even give the the correct word. So no wonder it is too much for me too. If you (a quantum physicist) and Marlon (an expert in aviation) could not understand it, how can a lesser mortal like me understand? Hence the copy and paste from the web. Even a monkey can do it if trained properly with a little bit of training.

    • 3

      So, what is your point? You seem to be more confused than ever. Cant blame you. Cut & Paste often does this to people.

    • 4

      To: Redwin Odrigo.

      You seem to be a person hallucinating in another world.
      What are you talking about Quantum Physics when you can’t figure out the square root of 5.
      A monkey has better intelligence than you without training.
      Poor sleep deprived man. Take a good nap, wake up, wash your face, eat a healthy b’fast, forgive and forget, put a smile on your face and look at all that is good in this world.
      You are a good man but the goodness in you cannot be seen because of the stupidity in you.

  • 0

    Caral, Who said there is any point? I am just a primate cutting (Sorry, not cutting put copying) and pasting. Don’t expect anything meaningful to you in my comments. Intially, I thought I can make sense but the inertia was too much and needs a quantum leap.

    CT seems to be publishing any comments irrespective of value. I like that, because that enables to monkeys to monkey with the grand ideas of the homo sapiens. That is freedom of expression (or more precisely, freedom of copying and pasting), which should be extended to the larger family of primates including monkeys.


  • 0

    During 1970 and 1977 then Air Ceylon was run down and we left with an Airline without any planes. After 1977 election victory JRJ’s government started AIRLANKA with the support of Singapore Airlines. This name was changed to Sri Lankan Airlines after 1997 by selling part of it to Emirates Airline. Now after several years of MR’s regime our National Carrier is said to be having lots of management issue with a loss of Rupees 100 billion. How awful is this? CEO of our national carrier get things right and trainin your pilots properly, if possible getting help from another airline who does not ask part ownership of our national carrier. I live in UK but most of the time when I hear these stories i am reluctant to use our national carrier. So get things right including without free travel to politicos.

  • 1

    In reply to Paul’s comment the system doesn’t depend on the airline or country’s efficiency alone, it is audited by multiple independent organizations including ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), IATA (international Air Transport Organization) and airlines who code share with SriLankan. All of them have a lot to lose if SriLankan had poor safety and they would not stand by and let the airline or it’s pilots run amok.

    Additionally SriLankan was accepted only last year into the OneWorld alliance which includes British Airways, Qantas, American Airlines, Japan Airlines and Qatar Airways. That means passengers of any of these airlines would travel with the same ticket on SriLankan flights. Getting accepted into this alliance is only after the members are confident that any new member has (among other things) safety standards that are equal to the existing members.

    Do you think British Airways will sit happily by and get sued because someone with a BA ticket was traveling on a SriLankan plane which crashed because a pilot deliberately shut down a vital system?

    To reiterate this is not to say SriLankan is doing anything special. These safety systems are simply the minimum required in the modern world and SriLankan is having the same as everyone else. Nowadays it is not possible for any pilot, anywhere in the world to deactivate vital systems or to fly drunk.

    • 0

      Thanks Thushan. My understanding is that OneWorld relates to earning and redeeming air miles across all member airlines, not using each others tickets.


  • 1

    Hi Paul, OneWorld and all the other alliances do share frequent flyer programs as well but they do use each other’s tickets.

    Just go to Japan Airlines and website and book a Colombo to Tokyo ticket and they say it’s a flight with one stop. First leg Colombo to Bangkok on JAL 5705 and the second leg from Bangkok to Tokyo on JAL 708. If you check the first leg you would be actually flying on SriLankan’s UL 422 as JAL has no plane that comes to Colombo.

    This is why they audited SriLankan for over an year and a half before acceptance into OneWorld.

    I don’t mean to argumentative and as I said before I’m sure both the author and posters such as yourself have the best of intentions which is promoting airline safety. This is admirable. It’s just that the particular allegations made by Marlon’s source in this article are not possible.

    Wishing all of you a good day.

    • 0

      Thanks again Thushan for your informative reply.

  • 1

    Regarding the incident no 4 where the First Officer resigns after a brawl, since when it has become a CRM issue when pilots gets drunk at Party and have arguments and brawls?Crew Resource Management is something where you practice the moment you meet your Co pilot and Crew and till you depart the Airport after flight. Civil Aviation Authorities and Pilots guild cannot get involved in personal issues of the crew members outside duty hours.

    If thats the case CAA and Pilots Guild should get involved with so many issues specially when training was terminated due to not CRM was practiced in the SIM, Instructors taking biased decisions , Instructors being abusive towards Cadets/ First Officers etc , how come the CEO or DG of CAA do not consider these incidents as CRM issues and have a sympathy on First officers resignation? This is not right. Surely they are washing and cleaning dirty linen of a First Officer who resigned because certain Captains must be canvasing on behalf of this First Officer. This is deviating from the Norms and doesnt raise issue on other important CRM issues in the Company. There are cases where Cadets were sent on training with out checking their Licenses , IR renewals and some cases where Certain Cadets joined and gone for training where they had forged flying hours in their log books and questions raised from their flying schools to CXl the license but Sri Lankan CPL was given , no action were taken by the CAA nor the Guild,and some pilots unfortunately had to leave because of these issues of other incompetent pilots.CAA never raised these issues nor listen and investigated to do justice for these victims.Mainly these pilots were not the types who carry Golf Bags for Captains, make Tree huts during Camping for Capatains and NOT willing to do any dirty work to get sympathy.

    What about the First Officer who got caught for Paying for ATPL but he was released and now flies in another far east Airline was his license CXled? Over to the writer to get some clarification..

  • 0

    Rajesh Karuthedath
    Passport: xxxxxx
    Phone: 0086 13148817443

    Dear Sri Lankan airways authorities, I am attaching my ticket and escalating a serious concern which Sri Lankan airways staff has displayed to a passenger. I have booked one ticket from Cochin to Guangzhou (ticket attached), when I arrived Sri Lanka I immediately contact the transfer help desk for hotel stay, they have rejected hotel accommodation and made me wait in airport with a slice of bread and a coffee for 8 long hours. I am completely upset about the service and wonder whether this i is the customer service Sri Lankan airways provide to a transit passenger who is flying 3 sectors ( kochi- Colombo-Guangzhou). Because of all this trauma I have a very bad sour back pain and my stomach become really bad and upset and continue travel with medication from the airport doctor, INeed an urgent answer for my serious concern and Sri Lankan airways is responsible for all my troubles and physical illness. Expecting immidiate action or else I will be forced to take SL Airways for a legal battle, to any extend with all documents and proofs of my bad health situation.

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