Colombo Telegraph

Sri Lankan Airlines – How Safe Are You To Fly?

By 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.

Questionable 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: | Web:

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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