24 September, 2018

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SriLankan Airlines: Frankfurt Flight Delay – Captain Failed Breathalyzer Test

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.

CEO - Suren Ratwatte

CEO Capt. Suren Ratwatte Orders Inquiry And Suspends His Pilot Colleague

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)

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Latest comments

  • 46
    5

    Terrible tragedy averted by smart co-pilot. Former big boss is planning a trip to italy with his golayas and Capt Ranaweera will be the chief pilot and first stop at welikada prison to pick up stewardess Senanya and steward namal.

  • 17
    8

    ah! Sri Lanka. Monkey Kingdom.The Kingdom of shape.

  • 26
    3

    GOOD COMMENT BY MUDSON!!. HOPE ALL THE RAJAFUCKSAS CRASH LAND IN WELIKADA PRISON. NAMAL BABY IS HAVING A JOLLY GOOD TIME AT WELIKADA WITH HOT STEWARDESS NITHYA SENANYA. THE BUGGER DOESNT WANT BAIL

  • 11
    0

    This is extremely disturbing. Kudos to the co-pilots.

    • 1
      0

      Very disturbing indeed! I hope the drunkard is not politically connected to cause harm to the brave co-pilots who reported the incident. Time to catch drunken bus drivers too. Too many lives lost on the roads.

      • 2
        1

        lal loo

        “Time to catch drunken bus drivers too. Too many lives lost on the roads.”

        Good advice.

        However who is going to catch those who are drunk on racism and communalism, here I am talking about you and your fellow racist.

        Had some one (who had the b***s) arrested people like you in good time, this country could have avoided numerous bloodbath in this island over the past 60 odd years.

        Next time when you are tempted to go rampage, ask the police to have you arrested and detained until your rage has subsided.

  • 3
    3

    Thank heavens for those smart colleagues who recognised that something was amiss when Capt. UpUPandAway Rat-Wat came down singing that Jimmy Webb classic…..

    Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon?
    Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon?
    We could float among the stars together, you and I
    For we can fly we can fly up, up and away

    My beautiful, my beautiful balloon
    The world’s a nicer place in my beautiful balloon
    It wears a nicer face in my beautiful balloon
    We can sing a song and sail along the silver sky
    For we can fly we can fly up, up and away

    My beautiful, my beautiful balloon
    Suspended under a twilight canopy
    We’ll search the clouds for a star to guide us
    If by some chance you find yourself loving me
    We’ll find a cloud to hide us, we’ll keep the moon beside us

    Love is waiting there in my beautiful balloon
    Way up in the air in my beautiful balloon
    If you’ll hold my hand we’ll chase your dream across the sky
    For we can fly we can fly up, up and away

  • 6
    2

    Why not, the Airline has a surplus Cashflow, it can afford to pay the compensation + Hotel + other costs like Taxi etc. The passangers are never going to fly with this Airline and explain their experience in online Forums. It will help the Marketing. I don’t understand how could these “high qualified” medicos cleared him to keep his Pilot license. May be bribe or pressure from politician mußt have paved the way. Imagine this bigger crashes the flight killing hundreds of passangers? It would be the end of the famous Airline. Top Management, srilankan Style created from MR personally. Well done guys!

  • 4
    20

    There was a time I used to fly Air Lanka as it was then. After Mullivaikal I stopped buying Sri Lanka goods and services. Only after the demise of the Rajafucksas regime I’m beginning ease back my self imposed boycott of anything Sri Lankan!! Now in view of this I may have to reconsider flying Sri LANKAN.

    • 14
      6

      Take care that Sri Lanka does not boycott YOU.

    • 12
      8

      Karthigesu Nirmalan

      “Now in view of this I may have to reconsider flying Sri LANKAN.”

      Welcome back.

      Have you ever noticed, that when you board a Sri Lankan Airline at least three flight attendance welcome you with smiley face, uttering Ayubowan in their most sweetest voice, but not Vannakkam nor Asalamu Alykkum.

      Did it occur to you that Sri Lanka’s constitution states:

      Official Language

      18. 4
      [(1)] The Official Language of Sri Lanka shall be
      Sinhala.
      [(2) Tamil shall also be an official language.
      (3) English shall be the link language.
      (4) Parliament shall by law provide for the implementation
      of the provisions of this Chapter].

      19. The National Languages of Sri Lanka shall be Sinhala
      and Tamil.

      What do you say to the constitution?

      • 1
        0

        Weird! Totally agree!

        Air France only greet people in French.. I say they should greet in Somali, Arabic and Tamil also.

        Lufthansa – only German greeting – Why they cannot use Sinhala or Tamil as well ? After all, there are enough of us over there !

        KLM – Can’t understand a dam’ thing !

        And Middle Eastern airlines – They hawk their throats at you. Not an Ayubowan or Vanakkam in sight – Completely wrong since they fly a lot to Colombo

        British Airways is the worst ! As the head of the Commonwealth I say they should greet you in every language of that institution as you board the plane

        • 2
          1

          maalumiris

          The reason men oppose progress is not that they hate progress, but that they love inertia.

          – Elbert Hubbard

    • 5
      0

      Karthi.. Thank god that you have stooped your boycott of Sri Lankan products and services. Otherwise Sri Lanka may have become bankrupt without your deep pockets.

      Native Vedda,

      When you fly in Air India you get greeted in Hindi. Otherwise the airhostess may run out of her breath saying the greeting in rest of the state languages.

      • 2
        2

        ranil

        “When you fly in Air India you get greeted in Hindi.”

        Thanks, Air India is not the best example of an International carrier. By the way does Air India have toilets in its fleet of plans? I am told by Sinhala pundit “Abhaya” Indians aren’t used to toilets. Why bother fitting toilets in planes instead the carrier could increase the number of seats.

        If we go by your example let us drop Ayubovan and greet the passengers in Hindi.

        India has successfully launched many satellites and sent rocket to the moon. Despite the number of official languages India has been progressing in the field of science and technology.

        With one official language (made it less cumbersome) why haven’t this island progressed as much as India has?

        India is not a good example for not doing the right thing in this island.

        • 2
          0

          So what is a good example? British Airways greeting everyone in English, Welsh, Gaelic, Irish, Cornish? PanAm greeting everyone in English, Spanish….?

          • 2
            1

            Taraki

            “So what is a good example?”

            Good question however the answer is simple and obvious.

            Why cannot this island be the shining example of all good things, best behaviour, good practices, …… ?

            Is it that too much to ask?

            • 1
              0

              “Why cannot this island be the shining example of all good things, best behaviour, good practices, …… ? “

              Do you know of some such place ? Tell me please..Where is this blessed place ? I want to go there

              • 2
                0

                maalumiris

                “Do you know of some such place ? Tell me please..Where is this blessed place ? I want to go there”

                By following bad examples are you trying to hit the bottom?

                Don’t you have any aspiration for this country to achieve other than comparing and justifying its appalling record on everything worse?

                If you don’t want to see excellence why the hell this country sends athletes to various international competitions including Olympics, waste of money and time?

                Probably, Taraki and people like you cannot and will not bear the thought of people doing well and excel in whatever they do. I suspect both of you work/worked for the state where hard work, initiative, creativity, honesty, …… have no place, in fact discouraged, citing worse mode of practices in other departments and countries as defense for scuttling all good projects, demotivating the many who aspire for building a better country.

                Inertia is the worst enemy. You thrive on it.

                Aspiring

                • 0
                  0

                  Taraki working for the State ha ha ha, you must be joking mate.

                  Still waiting for that good example.

                  • 1
                    0

                    Taraki

                    “Still waiting for that good example.”

                    Why cannot this island be the shining example of all good things, best behaviour, good practices, …… ?

                    Why do you want this island to race against/with to hit the bottom?

                    I take it that you are more comfortable and contented with living in a cesspit like other countries.

                    Strive for excellence and other will follow you.

                    “Taraki working for the State ha ha ha, you must be joking mate.”

                    You may not be working for the state, however, you have the typical mindset of a state employee – admiring qualities, “can’t do won’t do”attitude. Therefore you wouldn’t know the meaning of excellence.

  • 10
    10

    What nonsense. I have even heard of pilots in SLA who fly after snorting cocaine. I never fly Sri Lankan.

  • 11
    4

    Upendra has a terrible record as a cabin crew initially and subsequently as a cock pit crew member.

    Let’s wait and see the response from the Pilots Guild.

    By the way drunk pilots is a common syndrome in USA and Europe.

    • 0
      0

      Upendra did not have problems as a Flight Steward. I do not know anything about the apparent turnaround afterwards thus, I cannot comment. But, facts are stubborn and he seems to have an addiction to alcohol

  • 6
    1

    Sri lankan Air lines need serious revision of their rule books. In an earlier occasion too, they have rehired the drunkard back to the pilot seat.

    Include trade union action to this ?

    How do they expect discipline from the pilots and how do passengers trust the air line ?

  • 14
    2

    missing head sets , non functioning infotainment, drunken captain…what next?

  • 10
    3

    The two co-pilots are to be applauded for their professionalism. But what will happen? Will they be fired/transferred? At the very least the drunk will do all he can to make their lives as difficult as possible. They will have no future at SriLankan unless they have the backing of someone more powerful than the drunkard.

  • 6
    1

    Its a shame his is charge of the resource Management of the Crew , or CRM, to build the spirit among the members. May be he has to find another role. One terrible note in this article where Capt Druvi Perera tried to ground him on few occasions. Well Capt Perera should consider himself lucky to operate because he managed to escape from the incident in Chennai where he was the instructor. He managed to influenced the CAA , his Royal contacts and got the license back with instructor privileges.Normally after an incidents Pilot gets their license back to fly but not the privilege to instruct.

    This airline is full of thieves.

  • 17
    2

    This shows, how strong the safety culture in the Srilankan Airlins, even among the crew! Its the crew who took the decision despite the huge loss it will occur. Kudos to Srilankan Airlins !

    • 5
      1

      ‘This shows, how strong the safety culture in the Srilankan Airlins’

      This is not quite true. The crew were also looking after their own lives.

      • 1
        0

        Obviously ,safety start from within . Otherwise it will be a suicide mission !

  • 8
    3

    Been with Air Lanka/Sri Lankan since inception working at the airports
    in a senior capacity and retired in 2000 and proud to say that there was never an occasion or an incident of an Operating crew or Cabin crew been under the influence of liquor, when on duty, although there had been such incidents with other famed airlines.I remember an inci-
    dent when a Capt. was asked to fly an aircraft during his layover period, and he refused saying that he had consumed a can of beer at the time of the request but agreed to take command if the management okayed it as we had 300 stranded passengers on ground but the Ops. manager refused permission to fly. That was the discipline maintained at that time, specially during the period when Capt. Wicremanayake headed Air Lanka, as Chairman and heads of flight operation dept. under
    whom the pilots serve, had been always a foreigner for a longer time, and pilots were keen in adding more flying hours to improve their flying experience, rather than aspiring to become the Chief Pilot and they earned credit, being an accident free airline, a rare feat at that time.

    As people say that the politicians are the cause for all evils in our
    country, politics got into the pilots guild during the previous regime.
    Politicians interfered and juniors were promoted over the seniors and
    there was infighting among the pilots on this issue as experience &
    seniority counts more than merits & nepotism in flying and there had been minor accidents on ground, near misses in the air and violations
    of aviation rules and all hushed up due political interference . They clashed with the airline board often in the recent past on many other issues and they became a challenge to the airline and the pilots guild probably wants to run the airline.
    In such a state of affairs happening in the airline, how can anybody maintain discipline among the pilots and the airline staff in general. My earnest request to the pilots and the staff is to bring back the past glory our airline/s famed for inflight services, accident free flying and excellent customer service on board and ground.

    • 1
      0

      Well, I too was at Air Lanka and believe me it was not all honky dory. I remember very well some of the retired expat old Pilots who used to be drunk on Board. One such person was Capt Swanson.
      Wickramanayake the first Chairman was a corrupt Dictator. If I meet him I will tell it to the buggers face.The only group which was allowed to dictate terms was the Pilots Guild. All others were considered easily dispensable.

  • 4
    1

    Who is the duplicate lawyer advising Sri Lankan Personnel dept? No one should sue and be able to win if the termination is on solid grounds instead of someone’s opinion.

  • 5
    2

    Sorry Upendra , Will never forget how you helped me during my darkest hour .

    Life throws us curveballs that sometimes seems unrecoverable . but stay strong and may the triple gems bless you

    Abhaya

  • 5
    3

    Oh gosh what is happening to this once top class airline?Who on earth would fly on it even free of charge?Not on my life would I dare step in; it will give me a heart attack even when that ugly looking thing ,recruited by that womanizing ex chairman Nishantha Wickremasinge ,says “Ayubowan, welcome on board”Of course having that Sri Lankan airline pundit Rajeeva Jayaweera uttering his reassurences would only make matters even worse!!!

  • 1
    1

    This seem to be a paka joke and we once again shall pay for the drama

  • 5
    0

    Kudos to the co-pilots and management. Interestingly earlier this year an American Airlines pilot who exceeded the Blood Alcohol content test when he was required to take a breathlyzer test before a flight was arrested.

    In the USA the Federal Aviation Administration FAA rules say a pilot cannot have a drink 8 hours prior to a flight. In this AA Flight 736 case, a Transport Security Agent had spotted the guy not being quite “normal” so to speak and reported it.

    Anyway kudos to the UL flight crew.

    In 2014 too an American Eagle Captain was arrested for being drunk before a flight. In 2015 a drunk Delta Airlines pilot was arrested.

    Drunk passengers aren’t altogether uncommon — but cases involving pilots suspected to be under the influence don’t seem to pop up as often.

    According to the some rules, pilots are not allowed to fly within eight hours of drinking alcohol; they also can’t have a blood-alcohol level of 0.04 percent or higher. About 10,000 pilots are tested for drugs and alcohol each year; about a dozen don’t pass the alcohol portion, the report notes.

    Still, when pilots do drink and get caught, they’re sure to make headlines.

    In 2002, two allegedly drunk pilots operating a plane with 124 passengers were on their way to taxi when the plane was called back and they were arrested. In 2011, a United Express pilot was sentenced to six months in prison after he flew a plane from Austin, Texas, to Denver while under the influence.

    Another Russian plane operated by two reportedly intoxicated pilots crashed in Russia, killing 10 of the 14 people who were on board. In 2009 another Aeroflot flight crashed Flight 821 and all were killed; pilot being drunk was one of the causes.

    As a sentimental Emigre’ I used to love to fly back on UL those days out of sentimental reasons but then was no longer enamoured by them and you can also get cheaper flights on newer aircraft via the Middle East. I did take a UL flight from LHR to CMB and from CMB to DOH and they were nice and service was very good and I was happy even though we commoners fly cattle class on vacation; they were much better than the shitty A380 Qatar flight back to US. That was terrible; food was shitty; service was shitty and of course all of our fellow South Asians do not respect queues and space. The Sri Lankan planes were clean and new and had good entertainment systems too and serve more alcohol as well.

  • 4
    3

    Nothing to worry mihin will give him a job, mj doors are opened for cptns like this:)

    • 1
      0

      Mhin to hell or heaven ?

  • 1
    1

    http://aviation-business-gazette.com/A30/B94/Pilot-Udaya-Bandara-Upendra-Ranaweera-Rajagiriya-.html

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is recognizing Udaya Bandara Upendra Ranaweera with inclusion in the prestigious FAA Airmen Certification Database.

    The database, which appears on the agency’s website at http://www.faa.gov, names Ranaweera and other certified pilots who have met or exceeded the high educational, licensing and medical standards established by the FAA.

  • 3
    0

    Things must be pretty desperate there in Srilankan, for even the Captains to hit the bottle..

    I thought Batalanada Ranil sent in his own crew to exorcise the Devil and run our A 330s all clean, without any demons at the wheel.

    How many dudes even in the West aspire to drive one of them?..

  • 2
    2

    The other day SriLankan Airline flight left for London without headphones – may have to compensate GBP 200/- to each passenger. Now this delayed flight may cost Euro 600/- per passenger. Can smell sabotage. Strong action needed here if SriLankan Airlines is to survive.

    • 1
      0

      Strong action needed for this airline not to survive. Since its inception this airline has been a drain on the country. Badly mismanaged and a heaven for political patronage and nepotism. Utterly inept management and lackadaisical crew all around. Running at a loss, running at a loss, at a loss and I am at a loss as to why this airline should be propped up for ever by the gamaralas and the three wheel drivers.

  • 4
    3

    Have every pilot take a breathalyzer test prior to their flight. If they have nothing to hide, they will do it.

    Sri Lankan airlines is already in a bad situation, and these pilots should know better than to risk the lives of their passengers because of their carelessness.

  • 2
    6

    I think this kind of irresponsible behavior by the pilots is mainly due to
    lack of religious education this type of pilots receive.

    It is high time Air Lanka and Pilots Guild work together and make religious education compulsory and as part of the training regardless of which religion they belong.

    Since Ven Gnanasara Thero type of priests are patriotic you can make him the head of this religious classes as he has knowledge about & respect for other religions.

  • 1
    1

    “ul554, you are permitted for take off. the runway is yours. have a good flight!”[Edited out]

  • 4
    1

    Dear Hon Kabir Hasim.

    I attribute this to the Law less ness of the country and i am above the law syndrome thats still in the blood of a few citizens.

    This guy jeopardised the National career of Srilanka and the fall out of this will take some time as many foreigners will stop flying the Sri Lankan.

    This Drunkard should be taken to courts and All the damages and losses incurred by Sri Lankan should be deducted from his retirement plan and set an example to the others in the same field .

    Who ever cleared his previous excapdes as this not the first time ( according to the news papers ) should be also dealt with.

  • 2
    0

    I don’t know this guy but lets be honest, this is CT. They used to put daily articles on Capt Druvi slandering him and now they are buttressing him. I doubt the history behind Capt Ranaweera as proclaimed by some anonymous person is factual. My opinion is that people make mistakes and pilots are humans. Go past Welikade and they say the same about prisoners too.

    Although this act was selfish and irresponsible, we don’t know what made a seasoned pilot do this. Has he crashed a plane before? no. If there are any incidents of wrong doing by him, CT should publish official records of when and where they happened.. Anonymous dude from Sri Lankan isn’t credible enough when it comes to serious matters.

    Sri Lankan pilots easily earn 5 figure dollar salaries and deducting the incurred costs from his pay check is the proper way out as per my beliefs. Put him on probation and strict surveillance but firing him would be extreme considering most previous instances of drunken pilots has resulted in probation and rehab. Breathalyzer tests must be conducted randomly or must be enforced before every flight.

  • 4
    1

    No excuses for this Captain but what all our pundits commenting here must understand is that flight crew have a very volatile life. Everyone is blinded by the glamour of the job but don’t see the terrible price they pay. Living out of a little box (Suitcase), forever away from loved ones and family, spending 80% of their lives in strange places and hotel rooms. Many people react to this life in different ways. Some turn to womanising, alcoholism and other vices. Some have the willpower to remain straight. We should have better support for these people like other countries do for ours and their safety.
    Incidents like this are in abundance at the so called “high class” airlines like Emirates, Qatar, etihad, Qantas. (Former Qatar employee) The difference there is that for example in the UAE the crew will never be highlighted in the media but instead will receive proper rehabilitation (To protect the airlines reputation) where as in Sri Lanka we just relish the opportunity to throw mud at our own people and bring our nation down.
    I am always shocked to see how we treat our cabin crew when I fly on SriLankan demanding to be treated like kings, and even more shocked to see how these same people behave like little lambs on Qatar and Emirates where they are treated like cattle.

    • 1
      1

      Being a flight crew member, attracted by glamour or not, is a personal choice. But once accepted such a job they must adhere to rules and regulations. There is no leeway when it comes to safety whether it is passenger transport by air, rail, ship or road transport. Alcohol kills. Just because others see a pilot’s job as romantic and a cut above the rest, there are no excuses for allowing them a little sip. Alcohol in? Cockpit out!

      It is a good point about the employer providing support to people in stress, either rooted at work or in their domestic environments. There is a lot of word play and public images of how good the employers are in this regard. But believe me, in airline industry (particularly in low cost airlines) a lot of words are for public consumption and to just marginally to meet the regulations. The reality is different in a an industry, where profit making is primary motive and pushing the air and ground crews to their limits is the norm. Unfortunately those that suffer too are reluctant to report their stresses due to the risk of losing their coveted status.

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