Colombo Telegraph

SriLankan Airlines: 2nd Pilot Breathalyzer Case – This Time Pilot Made The Victim

The Executive Committee of the Airline Pilots Guild of Sri Lanka have called for an Emergency Meeting on Monday the 5th of September 2016 after one of its member Pilots is allegedly being victimized by the airline’s management for failing to conform to a breathalyzer test prior to his flights departure.

CEO – Suren Ratwatte

The said incident took place last Sunday when senior Capt. Sujith Jayasekara reported for duty to operate his scheduled flight UL 402 to Bangkok.

Security personnel of the airline posted to carry out a breathalyzer test had spoken to Capt. Jayasekara and his co-pilot. At the conclusion of their conversation and with no breathalyzer test being conducted the pilots proceeded to operate their flight.

However as per international norms there was no independent or neutral body present during this period if a breathalyzer test was scheduled to be carried out with neither medical personnel in attendance. No international airline following the ICAO stipulations will have their security personnel carry out a breathalyzer test.

Subsequently much after the aircraft departed, the security personnel then informed the airline’s management that the two pilots had refused to undergo a breathalyzer test.

“This is all a load of rubbish, there was no refusal at all from Capt. Jayasekara’s part and this is a total fabrication of the entire episode. If there is one pilot in our current cadre who is thoroughly conversant with airline and CAA procedures it is Capt. Jayasekara. I can vouch that he will never break any rule ” a senior pilot and a member of the Pilots Guild went on to say.

“If they refused to undergo a breathalyzer test then how were they permitted to operate the flight?” our source went on to ask.

“To make matters even worse the airline’s management then went on to bring back the two pilots to Colombo from Bangkok the next day. This was in order to investigate the complaint made by the security personnel. The airline had to also fly out two other pilots to replace them in Bangkok to complete their original flight pattern. The two pilots in question were then sent to the airline’s Security and Investigations Department to provide a written statement and subsequently the matter had been taken up by the Human Resources Department. Currently the airline identity card of Capt. Jayasekara has been withdrawn and he has been removed of all flying duties pending the conclusion of this investigation whilst his co-pilot is released to resume his duties” he said.

Meanwhile the Director General H.M.C.Nimalasiri of the Civil Aviation Authority when contacted by Colombo Telegraph said “We have not been officially informed by SriLankan Airlines regarding this incident. Therefore we have not suspended their flying licenses”.

A Flight Operations staff member speaking on condition of anonymity as employees of the airline are barred from speaking to the media said “The Manager and other staff members on duty at the Flight Operations Department were privy to the conversation that took place between the security personnel and the said pilots. However the pilots never refused to be tested and also never visibly looked under the influence of any substance. Only an ensuing conversation took place between them and the pilots were sent on their way to operate the scheduled fight UL 402 to Bangkok”.

“Enough is enough. This entire exercise is the management’s response and reactive behavior towards the episode that took place in Frankfurt recently. In that incident it was the Co-Pilots who informed the management of Capt. Upendra Ranaweera appearing to be under the influence of alcohol just prior to departure. It is time that both the politically appointed Chairman and CEO are kicked out of this airline before they decide to target us one by one. We have given this airline everything from our side for many years. It is the successive senior management teams who over the years has screwed this airline and that is why we are experiencing this financial predicament now. Whenever they face issues we are the first who are called in as employees to support them. We have done this for years and have even taken pay cuts and forfeited our increments in support of the airline. Now these two jokers don’t have a bloody clue of how to run an airline. It is the Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe who is made to look a fool at the end of the day by the peurile and unprofessional behaviour caused by his two appointed and trusted lieutenants Chairman Dias and CEO Capt. Ratwatte. As for Capt.Ratwatte, there is nothing extra ordinarily special about his skills to be holding a CEO’s post, besides being an ordinary pilot who went on to work for Emirates Airline. On his last flight on then Air Lanka, he famously said that the national carrier would be shut down the day after his departure. Now nearly 25 years later he returns to make a complete mess of things here. After all he is only transiting in SriLankan Airlines until retirement before he goes to join his family who are domiciled in Melbourne” our source said.

The APGSL has been very vocal in the recent past even going on to brand the politically appointed Chairman Dias and CEO Capt. Ratwatte as being selfish, incompetent and two individuals whom they have lost all faith in, especially with regards to their lack of knowledge, expertise and experience in running of an airline.

The members of the APGSL had earlier called for an emergency meeting to have CEO Capt.Ratwatte ousted when he had tongue lashed the pilots saying he would have them gutted whilst using uncouth language. The members of the APGSL subsequently changed their stance of ousting CEO Ratwatte after he went on to apologize to the pilots for his buffoonish behaviour.

Senior pilots and members of the Pilots Guild went on to say that there has not been any clarity regarding the ordered breathalyzer tests that have been carried out.

“We do not even know who authorized these breathalyzer tests. We are still to be informed officially if these breathalyzer tests were ordered by the CAA or is it just a mechanism that has being introduced internally. Since the Frankfurt incident Capt. Shyler Mendis was the first to be breathalyzed, at which time he made known his objections to the way it was being administered as it did not conform to the norms of the International Civil Aviation Organization. The management was aware of the correct procedure, but however chose to show scant disregard to the ICAO stipulations and continued in the manner they wanted to adapt. The security department conducts the breathalyzer test and they themselves prosecute you. This is a very simple way of how the airline could target and harass any employee if they so chose to do. However in Capt.Sujith Jayasekara’s case, as a senior pilot he was well within his right to ask any question he wished to. Capt. Jayasekara has been a disciplined pilot for many years and with a year and a half to go for retirement it is shocking that the management is treating him in this manner. Ultimately he was never breathalysed and he was permitted to operate the flight by the security personnel. We will vehemently stand by our members and have even requested our Head of Flight Operations Capt. Rajind Ranatunga to support us in this regard, failing which we will take this matter up very strongly. Even the Chairman cannot be contacted at present as he is currently on a private sojourn in Malaysia. Even though he claims that he does not accept a salary from the airline, he was reported to have attended a Royal College OBA function in London, watched test cricket matches at Lords with his friends courtesy Sri Lankan Airlines and was also reported to have been on holiday recently in Seychelles sponsored by the Mihin Lanka’s GSA in Mahe. It is time his honeymoon with this airline comes to an end” concluded a member of the Pilots Guild.

This is the second instance where the national carrier now under Chairman Dias has made a mockery of a breathalyzer test carried out on a pilot.

Earlier SriLankan Airlines’ First Officer Uditha Danwatte was breathalysed ex London Heathrow and was found to be over the legally required limit to operate his flight down to Colombo. The airline then fired him. First Officer Danwatte subsequently pursued his case with the UK authorities and eventually he got himself cleared by them. Chairman Dias then fearing that First Officer Danwatte would file a fundamental rights case against the airline swiftly struck a deal with the pilot. The airline requested him to return his letter of termination and instead offered him a promotion to the rank of Captain to serve the country’s low cost carrier Mihin Lanka.

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