A SriLankan Airlines flight operating from Colombo to London Heathrow on the 15th of September 2016 was forced to divert to London Gatwick due to insufficient fuel on board.
The scheduled SriLankan Airlines flight piloted by Capt. P. Manathunga was sent into a holding pattern by the Air Traffic Control tower prior to its arrival into London Heathrow.
It is reported that the Airbus A330 – 300 aircraft utilized to operate this flight with registration 4R ALR, though being delivered brand new last year has been experiencing a fuel hiding recurring problem. The faulty glitch is where approximately two tons of fuel mysteriously goes missing in flight.
However in order to minimize the delay into London Heathrow and to escape any surcharge for departing at night, Capt. Manathunga extended the flight duty periods of both the Pilots and Flight Attendants using “Commander’s Discretion”.
The flight finally departed for London Heathrow almost two hours later after the aircraft was refueled at Gatwick.
Meanwhile a pilot of another airline traveling as a passenger said “This is absurd. Any flight operator should carry the fuel required for the trip and to his destination alternate, plus 3o minutes of holding fuel at destination or destination alternate plus contingency fuel of 3 % to 5% of the total fuel carried which are all specified in the Flight Operations Manual and approved by the operator’s Civil Aviation Authority. This is the norm. Had the procedures been followed to the letter, this situation would not have arisen. The Question is, did the captain carry less fuel to accommodate more payload ? or was there a discrepancy in the actual baggage weights which contributed towards incorrect fuel planning by the flight dispatchers? or was there a miscalculation in the “Performance Factor” of the aircraft which resulted in giving a lesser fuel burn for the trip on paper during planning? the passengering pilot asked.
Coincidentally the Pilots Guilds President Capt. Renuke Senanayake who flew the same aircraft the very next day to Frankfurt decided to carry an extra ton of fuel knowing fully well of the incident that took place the previous day over London.
Meanwhile certain members of the ALPGSL who felt let down by Capt. Manathunga’s decision to extend the flight duty period complained that he had not adhered to the collective decision that was taken by his fellow member pilots at their recently concluded Emergency Meeting. This is where over 60 pilot members of the ALPGSL collectively agreed to only fly their ‘published roster’, not fly on off days and not extend flight duty periods in protest of their member and Senior Capt. Sujith Jayasekara being suspended by the airline for his alleged refusal to be breathalyzed prior to operating a flight recently.
Sources confirmed that Capt. Manathunga had contacted his ALPGSL President Capt. Renuke Senanayake from London Gatwick after he had diverted seeking advice on his next course of action. The Guild President had then instructed Capt. Manathunga to extend the flight duty period and proceed to London Heathrow.
A member of the Pilots Guild speaking on condition of anonymity said ” Capt.Renuke Senanayake is due to step down as the President of the Pilots Guild on the 23rd of September 2016. Obviously he had decided on his own to make this decision and save face with the management, as he will now be a normal pilot on the line. It is also a known fact that Capt.Senanayake and the Head of Flight Operations Capt.Rajind Ranatunga are very close friends both as professionals and also on a personal capacity. Perhaps Capt. Senanayake did not want to rock the boat for his pal Capt. Ranatunga just prior to his departure as the Guild President. Maybe this was a parting gift from the Guild President instead. There are wheels within wheels normally in these situations. What’s to be done? “. ( Janaka Ranaweera )