SriLankan Airlines’ flight UL 554 scheduled to depart from Frankfurt Germany on the 19th of August 2016 experienced a lengthy delay as the Pilot-In-Command Capt. Upendra Ranaweera failed a breathalyzer test at the airport prior to departure.
According to reliable sources, it was the assertiveness of the other two Co-Pilots Nuwan Gunaratne the current Assistant Secretary of the Airline Pilots Guild of Sri Lanka and Shane Livera who informed their Chief Pilot Capt. Praveen Wettimuny in Colombo of Capt. Ranaweera’s abnormal behavior at the time of pick up from the hotel.
Our source speaking on condition of anonymity as he is barred from speaking to the media said “Capt. Ranaweera delayed the other two pilots for a considerable period of time when it was time to depart the hotel. Eventually when Capt. Ranaweera came down the two Co-Pilots then realized that Capt. Ranaweera was not in a fit condition physically to operate the flight. They then phoned their Chief Pilot Capt. Wettimuny in Colombo and reported the matter. The Chief Pilot then instructed the SriLankan Airlines authorities in Frankfurt to ensure that a breathalyzer test be conducted by the medical authorities upon their arrival to the airport. It was then that it was detected that Capt. Ranaweera was above the permitted limit to operate the flight. Hence the flight was delayed and the airline had to incur a massive loss as they had to accommodate all the passengers in hotels, feed them and even pay compensation according to European Union regulations”.
“Capt. Ranaweera a former cabin crew member of the airline who rose to become a pilot did have similar issues in the past. He in fact even went on to complain to the Weliamuna led Board of Inquiry that the former Chief Operations Officer Capt. Druvi Perera was on a witch hunt and had him grounded and sent to be psychologically evaluated. In actuality it was Capt. Druvi Perera and a group of concerned pilots who had wanted to rather help Capt. Ranaweera by having him medically condemned and compensated due to these ongoing issues and rather give him a job on ground. Capt. Ranaweera’s problems were common knowledge to many in the airline including the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka and its team of medical professionals. It can be confirmed that the former COO Capt.Perera had also officially informed the Director General Civil Aviation of Sri Lanka that he cannot entrust a million dollar aircraft and the lives of passengers and crew to Capt. Ranaweera and permit him to fly due to his ongoing issues. Thereafter the DGCA appointed a panel of doctors who cleared him medically and released his license to operate flights. Now this entire episode has completely blown up in their faces and it will be up to all of them at the CAA of Sri Lanka including its team of medical officials to take responsibility for this incident. After all there was an ongoing issue that they kept on sweeping under the carpet with regards to Capt. Ranaweera” he said.
A total of 259 passengers on board inconvenienced by this delay stand to be compensated 600 euro each. The flight eventually departed for Colombo 15 hours later.
It was reported that Capt. Ranaweera arrived in Sri Lanka today and was spirited away from the airport’s rear exit by the airline’s management, fearing the strong media representation outside the airport.
Capt. Ranaweera is currently taken off all duties pending inquiry.
Earlier SriLankan Airlines dealt with a similar booze related pilot incident in London Heathrow. In that incident the First Officer was terminated by the airline. However pursuing his case personally the First Officer got himself cleared by the United Kingdom authorities. Fearing a fundamental rights case been filed against the airline, the senior management requested him to return the letter of termination and instead promoted him as a Captain and posted him with Mihin Lanka where he is currently employed. ( Janaka Ranaweera @ Colombo Telegraph)