A newly married co-pilot of SriLankan Airlines travelling with his wife on flight UL 303 Singapore / Colombo on the 8th December 2016, has upset many fellow Business Class travelling passengers by waltzing in an out of the cockpit for both takeoff and also the landing during the flight.
A disgruntled passenger Rohan Eric Samuel an Engineer by profession, interpreting the co-pilot’s behavior in flight as a violation of the airline’s ‘Sterile Cockpit Policy’ set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, has formally sent in a written complaint to the Director General of Civil Aviation Authority Sri Lanka.
Another passenger who travelled on the same flight and who requested anonymity said “Passengers travelling on the national carrier have been nervous since a Captain on Mihin Lanka (which was run by the national carrier then) was found fast asleep in the cockpit after his copilot had stepped out to go to the toilet. After a many attempts to gain re-entry into the cockpit, the co-pilot had to use the cockpit override entry system to gain access. Even then the captain was still found to be fast asleep at the controls. Similarly passengers get very nervous when civilians enter the cockpit during flight. In this case how would we know this couple was staff travelling in civvies? ”
Colombo Telegraph reliably learns that the two passengers who were permitted the luxury of experiencing a takeoff and landing in the flight deck were a newly wedded First Officer and his bride who were travelling as passengers and occupying seats 3 H and 3 K in Business Class.
Passenger Rohan Eric Samuel had inquired from the operating Cabin Crew as to who these passengers were. “Nothing to worry Sir!” swiftly came the Flight Stewardess’ response. “They are Flight Officers travelling in civilian clothing” she said.
All airlines governed by ICAO were forced to implement and follow a strict ‘Sterile Cockpit Policy’ restricting the entry of non-operating crew into the cockpit, after the famous 9/11 terrorist attacks reshaped airline travel.
However SriLankan Airlines does have a facility extended to its staff where in the event flights are full, they are permitted to travel in the cockpit only whilst travelling on staff rebated tickets and that too only with the Captain’s consent.
Meanwhile most airlines practice a similar policy but permit staff to travel in the cockpit only in the event of a family emergency.
A member of the Airline Pilots Guild when contacted by Colombo Telegraph said “ This policy was initially approved by the Director General Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka and the Head of Flight Operations of SriLankan Airlines authorizes all requests prior to it been conveyed to the operating Captain. Nevertheless it is only at the sole discretion of the operating captain that any staff member would be accommodated to finally travel in cockpit.
However in this instance it is still to be established if the First Officer had obtained prior authorization to travel in the flight deck.
A member of the Flight Attendants Union when contacted said, “Sometimes when pilots travel as passengers in civvies think they own the airline. If he was accommodated in the cabin then there is no reason why he should be waltzing in and out of the cockpit In Flight. The aircraft operated on this flight was a Airbus 320 and all movement in and out of the cockpit is very visible to other passengers in the Business Class cabin. It seems like this Co – Pilot was simply trying to muscle his way around in flight and show off to his new bride, since he himself is a pilot with the national carrier.
Meanwhile a frequent traveler on SriLankan Airlines speaking to Colombo Telegraph said “I have sat in the cockpit as a passenger on many occasions for both takeoff and landing. That is no big deal. I always check who the operating captain is whenever my family and friends travel. If the captain is known to me, I even get them to sit in the Flight Deck. SriLankan Airlines is also one of the few airlines in the world where you could smoke a cigarette in the cockpit in flight. That is if the Captain is also a smoker and is personally known to you”.
SriLankan Airlines CEO Capt. Suren Ratwatte however continues to turn a blind eye to flight deck related safety concerns despite these issues been frequently reported in the media. Throughout his 25 plus years’ experience at Emirates Airlines, violations of the ‘Sterile Cockpit Policy’ and ‘smoking in the Cockpit’ are viewed as very serious issues which could eventually lead to termination of employment.
All attempts to contact the Director General CAA H.M.C.Nimalasiri for comment proved futile. (Janaka Ranaweera)