The Sunday Leader

Breaking The Rules

  • Civil Aviation Authority Relaxes Rules For Military Pilots

By Nirmala Kannangara

H.M.C Nimalsiri

The Director General, Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka (CAASL), H.M.C Nimalsiri has authorised bypassing International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) rules and regulations.
Earlier, all military and civilian pilots applying for commercial licenses had to sit for the commercial and airline transport pilot license written examinations, held at the CAASL. However, this has been recently changed to benefit military pilots, against ICAO regulations. The exams are now being held in two venues — for military pilots at the Air Force, and for civilian pilots at the Aviation Authority, according to the Airline Pilots Guild of Sri Lanka (ALPGSL). They also charged that the Air Force has been allowed to use their own examiners, while civilian pilots will be supervised by the Civil Aviation Authority examiners.

Lax Rules For Military Pilots

“It is a known secret that this decision was taken in order to pave way for the military pilots to get through these exams without failing. There were many instances where military pilots failed the written exams when they were held at the CAASL. Interestingly once the examination center was changed to the Air Force Headquarters, and their own examiners were given authority to evaluate their papers, none of the military pilots failed whatever exams they faced,” the ALPGSL alleged.
The Guild added that though they had demanded an explanation for the rule change from Nimalsiri, they were yet to receive one.
The ALPGSL noted that several Air Force pilots, some with over 20 years of experience had failed the air law examinations, required to convert military licenses to civilian licenses. The pilots had been aiming to fly Mihin Lanka planes. Many were unsuccessful in the re-sit examinations as well.
“These results clearly showed that although the SLAF pilots knew how to fly military aircraft, they do not know the international air laws which are essential to fly commercial aircraft. In order to avoid further embarrassment, the then Air Force Commander who is also the Chairman of CAASL, Air Chief Marshal Roshan Gunathilake has ordered the Director General CAASL to change the examination venue for their pilots from the CAASL to SLAF Headquarters,” claimed dissatisfied Guild members.

Favouritism And Jeopardising Safety

The Guild however had far more shocking allegations to make. They claimed that the reason the Civil Aviation Authority had changed exam criteria with such alacrity was to pave the way for the former Air Force Commander, Chief Marshall Roshan Gunathilake’s son to obtain his commercial license, “without any hassle.”
They additionally claimed that Air Force Group Captain (also Deputy Director of Operations at CAASL) Priyantha Adikaram had been appointed as an inspector despite not being qualified for the job nor being rated a Captain.
“In this instance, Adikaram has a along way to go as he has just started his ground school in mid January. However he has become an Inspector now. Before becoming a Captain, which takes many years, he has to fly as a first officer with the Captain. In that backdrop how could a Captain who has command in the cockpit carry out his duties independently when he knows that his deputy, the first officer is an Inspector who has the authority to take action against him at any future evaluation tests? How could a Captain work in such an atmosphere?” the ALPGSL asked.
They further claimed that SriLankan Airlines would have to obtain a special insurance premium if they allow Adikaram to fly as a first officer, since they had not followed normal procedure, raising questions and dissatisfaction among both pilots and instructors.
Nimalsiri’s Response

Refuting allegations leveled against the CAASL, Director General Nimalsiri told The Sunday Leader that as the authorising officer he has the authority to allow another government institution to hold the written exams anywhere.
“If I have given the authority to SriLankan Airlines which is a government institution to conduct skill training then why cannot I delegate authority to SLAF, which is another government department, to hold the exams,” Nimalsiri asked.
When asked why he had allowed the SLAF to evaluate the exam papers against ICAO regulations, Nimalsiri said that since the Air Force too was a government department he had  faith in them. He added that there was a shortage of examiners, which had led to the measure. Nimalsiri said the Pilots Guild was making the allegations out of jealousy, and pointed out that the military had even transported the President and other VVIP dignitaries safely.
“How could anyone claim that SLAF pilots do not have a proper knowledge in air law? They have gone through a comprehensive training programme before getting their military license. It was they who fought the war from above. Have you heard of any unfortunate incidents?” Nimalsiri queried.
Regarding Adikaram’s case, Nimalsiri said the Civil Aviation Authority needed their own Inspector who was also a fully qualified pilot to carry out evaluations on SriLankan Airline Captains.
“The CAASL does not have money to employ a fully qualified pilot to work as an inspector as has to be paid around US $ 12-13,000 per month. For the moment we have two retired type rated Captains working for us. But still we need our own Inspector to carry out impartial tests,” he said. Nimalsiri explained that though they had spent millions of rupees in training civilian pilots to become Captains, many of them had left after receiving the qualifications. After weighing options they decided to train an Air Force officer rather than recruiting a new officer.”
“The SLAF gave an assurance that (Adikaram) would not leave instantly. So he would be trained under the cadet programme and he will be available to the organisation for 10 years. All these allegations are made because the (ALPGSL) does not want the CAASL to be in charge of the regular checking,” he said.
Nimalsiri further said that he cannot depend on type rated SriLankan Airline Captains to carry out checks on fellow Captains as he could not expect impartiality from them.
However when asked as to how he could remain confident in SLAF personnel to evaluate their own question papers, Nimalsiri failed to give a proper answer.
CAASL’s Director queried why the Captains should be afraid to fly with Adikaram as the first officer if they discharged their duties appropriately, and said the people complaining were inferior Captains. He also denied reports that an extra insurance premium would have to be paid for Adikaram when he starts flying as a first officer in a few months.
“If there is an insurance premium added, the CAASL would certainly foot the cost. I have not been told of such an extra insurance premium. SriLankan Airlines will work it out,” he said.
Meanwhile, SriLankan Airlines said that they were not bound to pay an additional premium for Adikaram.
A release from the national carrier stated the following:
“Deputy Director General, Civil Aviation Authority, Group Captain Priyantha Adikaram  is currently receiving a ‘type rating’ course on the A 320 aircraft for a fee. The airline has not contracted to employ Mr. Adikaram as a first officer and the airline is not required to pay an additional insurance during his line training.”

24 Comments for “Breaking The Rules”

  1. nuwan soysa

    “horage ammagen pena balanawa wage……”

  2. OMG

    This is the best part about our current scheme of governance…if there’s a law, so be it, break it or work around it! How far are we from a failed state of governance? How far are we from another grand scheme of corruption. People WAKE UP! See beyond what you are seeing. Dont just input information and output it without processing it! The entire scheme of governance is a scam, and you are the characters moved by the players!

  3. captain milinda ratnayake

    the previous air force commander roshan goonetilleke is also a product of change of rules.
    his father the late air vice marshal harry goonetilleke did change the marking method which was a well established format handed from the royal air force..

    this change enabled air marshal roshan goonetilleke to be the best cadet.
    like father like son!!!!!!!!!!!
    go air force go…………

    • Arib

      Roshan Goonetilleke didn’t become the Best Cadet in his batch with or without his father’s influence.
      The Best Cadet was Roger Weerasinghe, who died a few years back when the LTTE shot down his Avro Aircraft at Palaly. Anybody can check it. Why Lie Milinda?

  4. DA

    This Question goes to the Airline Pilots Guild of Sri Lanka,,,,

    If you say that the Sri lankan Airforce Pilots are not safe enough then y did you accept them as JFOs to the airline to fly A320s ……

  5. calvin klien

    Sunday leader leave the commander alone….. if namal rajapakse candi his final bar exam at the priciples office y cant….

    look at the curruption inside Sri lankan HR ……

    • JR

      What we can see here some frustration an anger towards this Airforce officer and Some Yankee Airbus Drivers who think that they have born with the rating try to corner Airforce Pilots and letting them down ……This UNion or the Pilots guild voice their concerns for their advantage only, these guys can be baught for money and it has happaned in the past …..

      What you have mention here is an Officer callibre of Group Captain Adhikaram who have served in the airforce and still does as a C 130 Instructor ( thats Hurcules ) if you have seen this plane, which is Heavy cat , trained in USA. Accumulated 12,000 plus hours in combat , an Instructor traind in Pakistan and USA and concidered to be a Balance Administrator and a Soldire.So please dont compare him to these Yankees who are flying Airbusses who have just walked in with Influence to the Sri Lankan airlines ( all the Union Captains got in with Influense ) in 90s , who had just less than 300 flying hours on 2 seater C 150 just after the flying school.Some of them have not been Instructors walked straight to the right Hand seat of the Airbus.( 95% of the Cadets are just CPL holders and not Instructors where Other Airlines around the world recruite for most Flying hours and being an Instructor . )

      HMC Nimalsiri is the same guy who became a vicitm of the Mihin Lanka issue where he lost his Job for not dancing according to SVG s tune to grant the AOC within weeks for not fullfilling the Requirments.So he knows his Stuff and streamlined the COSCAP but there are occasiosn where CAA have done mistakes thats due to the weakness of its officers.

      When it comes to the Airforce Commanders Son, My dear Sunday LEader , if he really wants to make his son a Civilain Pilot its not a Big deal for him to spend USD 35,000-40,000 an send him to USA and within 9 months he will come down to SL as a Commercial Pilot. If he doesnt have money then atleast he can get a Presidents Scholership to educate his Son because Sarath Fonsekas Two daughters have been funded by the Presidents Fund to study in USa and manay other Forces ( Officers ) children obtained that Fund to educate their children in overseas due to the the service they have done to the country. When the Airline is getting lots of Expat Pilots and also getting Expat Dual passport holders who were born somewhere else as Cadets and giving them the A320 rating free of charge for having just 250 hrs flying under them when you can find Local cadets in the country , Y cant an Officer who have done alot for the country do the same rating,with more flying expereince

      So my Answer to the Pilots Guild is to look after the HR/Operations issue of your airline where guys who couldnt fly the C150 striaght and level now fly Airbus.Guys who couldnt pass the CPL tech first time, failed the IR somany times, Crashed the Sim during training are now checked out and are Captains now for the national Carrier,,, so we ( I ) know the calibre of your Colleagues .Dont let down our Airforce Pilots.

      • Calvin Klien

        I agree with you JR. THere are two sides of the story though, The reason The ALPGA doesnt Want Adhikaram is due to his experience, but I cant understand why Sri Lankan Airlines Captains dont want to fly with him becayse there are somany Ex Airforce Pilots were taken as JFO s since 2006. A special route was created to accomadate them when THe then Flight Ops Manager ( We know whomee???) was entertained in the Airforce mess , fed, played Squash and then approached him to create an Intake to take them in …. help was done thru one time Airforce Commanders Secretery now occupying working in Operations there too,,, We all know that he was responsible for all the work there to crreate this intake for JFO s……..

        So why suddenly the Airline being grumpy about rating is given to this Officer.????

        We cannot forget there were Ex Airforce Pilots have flown in the national Airline and went on to fly for Other Airlines and now concidered to be Ex Captains in Sri Lanka loved , admired and respected by the Aviation community in Sri Lanka. Airforce Pilots were taken to Civil Airlines since 1950s even in USA , just after the COld War. End of the day though they dont have the Civil License there training was conucted to the highest level much more better than 85% of the Cadets who get in to the Airline.

        I am retired and now work as a Consultant and I see that the Examination should be streamlines to solve the whole issue. There are occasions where we have seen Some Pilot license where given to student where they have skipped CPL theory and went on to to go and do the ATPl theory, One Cannot bypass the Procedures just because its not available in the country, if you cant do those exams then go overseas and do it, When I spoke to a CAA officer and a Student who was given a Frozen ATPL where he has done the PPL and ATPl subjects whch was not the New ATPL but the Old ATPL, there is a clearly mistake done from CAA and the student where the CPL Theory portion was not done, but there excuse was ‘we dont have the sylubus and no Instructors in the county to do the CPl papers ‘ , but My advice was if 85 % of the students can go overseas to do their Flying why couldnt yull go? just because u did it in Sri Lanka , it doesnt mean you have to complete a Half license, that License is not valid, theres is no way ICAO could accept that ,

        • JR

          Ahhh Airline pilots are scared now o get a senior Airforce Instructor to be prt of their crew…..

        • Fly me to the heaven

          The what about the JFOs from Airforce flying with us ,,, wree they paid a higher insurance fee,,, this fee should be paid by the Sri lankan airlines for accepting the Cadets with just 250 hrs, where most of the Airlines in the world take Pilots with more than 1500 hrs with an ATPL. Some of them cant even land on the centreline as far as the Airforce pilots who have joined the airlines are concerned ,,, atleast the Airforce guys were taken to the airforce after a strict medical and selection process, among 500 applications for General duties Pilot , only 30-40 are accpeted and even from that the top 10 go and fly Jets, where every ToM Dick and HArry who have money can go to USA do 1 exam, memorise 1000 questions and get the CPLwith 230 hrs and get in to Cadet scheme,….There skills are highlighted when they come and do the convertion where the local examiners are shocked how they have obtained the CPL from overseas , Dont underestimate the Airforce talent

    • Dear calvin and JR
      Your limited lnowledge. Is the cause for your confused state of mind.
      I have worked in the airforce and the Airline, they are two seperate deciplines and skills..
      Flying airlines demand far more than you have seen flying around the island with only one ILS.we don’t put the machine in danger and leap off in parachutes. We are responsibe for all our passengers safety, then ourselves.
      However the smartest pilots in the airforce have blended into the system well. They are good pilots nd. Gentlemen Rules neet to be bent to take in runt.
      Our safety record speaks for itself. How about yours my friend.
      Try to improve your skills and knowledge rather than wasting time slandering us. If not you will still be in light aircrafts.

      • JR

        Mr Sanjo,

        What you say that the skills are better in the Airline, I am with them too and I came from the Airforce.

        Take the US Airforce. Arnt they get absorbed in the airlines much more quicker than the 250 guys.

        Dont talk nonsence

  6. Changi

    Well edited and positive comments.

    THis is the sad situation to accuse Airforce and its Pilots for passing the exam without knowledge.

    Have we all forgotten the service and sacrifice they did during the War, leaving their famelies behind and risking their lives.So its not right to accuse them of passing the exams. Thats a serious alligation against the whole Airfroce then. Air Law exam is passed even by the local CPl holders when they come to convert the license.This alligation is not just about the Air Law exam.Its more than , this alligation by the Civil Pilots Guild directly saying that How come Airforce Pilots flying for Mihin.THeir Concern is how come all the Airforce Pilots are not getting ready to fly the A320 for Mihin, mainly because there could be yound inexpereince CPL holders linked to Captains without educational qualification with the A320 rating and the money for the rating to spend but unable to get in to Mihin because of the Airforce Pilots. THen this matter should be taken up at the Ministry Of Defence level because these Comments by the Pilots Guild is a disgrace for entire Airforce.This shows that they only can Fly Airforce Planes and unable to take a Civil Jobs.???? Is that right?

    But we know ( I too ) have been invlved n Civil and Airforce Flying for ages and so far my understanding is that Mihin reputation asa Airforce place.thats the Governments discretion.TO be frank GOvernment have given chnaces for Airforce Pilots too in the recent past who had Civil License,

    I can see there are Instructors working for the Airline who come from the Services with huge ammount of expereince, Some of them do advance Simulator jet training for airlines pilots in and out of the country for other airlines, thats because there standard is much more better.

    Lets stop this division and work to gether to devolop the peace and harmony

  7. sammy.ca

    sorry state of affairs. the outcome is people will not fly Sri Lankan. if the milittary pilots want to become commercial pilots they can do so by going in the correct way. unfortunately, the govt. officials are compelled to listen to politicos and their henchmen. SLAF is not a licencing body for commercial pilots and this is the first time I am hearing that. Do not put the passengers at risk……. well my decision….. not to fly Sri Lankan not because of anything else because of untrained pilots. these guys are putting the passesngers at risk. this is absurd

  8. LEO

    Calvin Klien (Klein or whatever your name is), regarding your statement about pilots obtaining a Frozen ATPL without sitting for the CPL nav and tech subjects, I suggest you first do some research before making allegations. In major airlines all over the world, when ab-initio students are recruited, the only theory examination held by their respective Civil Aviation Authority is that of the Airline Transport Pilots License. This also includes training conducted by very well respected flight training organizations. Once they successfully complete the flight check they are given a fATPL with or without a time restriction to obtain the required number of hours to unfreeze the said license.

    The theory conducted for the nav and tech subjects for the ATPL, in this case the UK CAA syllabus, includes a more advanced version of that which is done for the CPL. Further more, to date, the examination papers of the navigation group of subjects held at CAASL is sent from the UK.

    You claim a certain officer at CAASL said there are no instructors in the country to conduct the CPL ground school? Then how may I ask did the students do their ATPL ground school? You also claim there is no CPL syllabus. Yes there is. CPL examinations have been held in this country for a very long time! You talk about a “New ATPL and Old ATPL”. CAASL is currently following the UK CAA syllabus for their training. It is however in the process of transitioning to JAA.

    CAASL does not go around blindly handing out licenses to every Tom, Dick and Harry.

  9. SENSE

    Yes we need to recruit more Pilots from the Air Force, after all, many of those who are screaming at the top of their voices are NOT those who had served their country. If you trace back into their family tree you may not find a single sole who had served the country. Some are from the self proclaimed elite of society while the others are from the hoi poloi of Sri Lanka and then there are the sons of former Military Officers who are 98% political appointees.
    The question here is whether the regulation has been twisted around to suit the requirements of todays ‘bosses’ in Sri Lanka. IT CERTAINLY APPEARS TO BE SO but who will bell the cat when we all know that the cat does not chase rats today but plays with them?
    Today’s Chairman of Civil Aviation is the same man whose father twisted a properly laid down syllabus to favor the son – this happened in 1979 and had detrimental effects on the families of the victims. His brother in law who also served the Air Force was cashiered from the outfit for misappropriation. He also chose to look the other way when some local pilots returned to SL having served foreign airlines and Sri Lankan Airlines refused to accept them even when they were severely short of pilots. So can anyone expect honestly from such a leader? The whole Directorate of Civil Aviation is similar to Sri Lanka Cricket – corrupt to the core !

    Can Gr Capt Adikaram do his duties as an inspector when he is only a First Officer ? That’s the main question here. The answer is a resounding

    NO. NO. NO!!

    Any official with an iota of intelligence about aviation would understand that that is not possible. It’s the Captain who has the authority in an aircraft and not the First Officer. It is the First Officer who learns from the Captain so aren’t we asking the Secretary to the President to report on his boss when he himself is tottering in his work ? Ridiculous and illogical thinking. We should just mourn for Sri Lanka.

  10. Tom dick and Harry

    To JR,
    Have you even flown an aeroplane buddy? Becuase the most people that I have came across are the one that are clueless.
    They all can talk about the centrelines of a runway but many can’t find themselves on it.
    I do believe that airforce pilots are skillfull but that on doesn’t neccesarily translate well into civil setup, I’m saying again sometimes that is.
    So stop whinning, and stand for what’s right or wrong. Don’t just take the airforce pilot’s side or anyones for that matter.
    If what is on the paper is right then it should be accepted, not let your ego hide the truth for the sake of a military fraternity.
    I however wishes that the paper article is wrong, becuase there are many great military pilots with us who can fly both types of aircraft well!

  11. Capt.

    I am Sad to hear Nimalsiri`s comment that he cannot depend on type rated SriLankan Airline Captains to carry out checks on fellow Captains as he could not expect impartiality from them.
    I must emphasize Our National Carrier Has one of the best Safety records in the World and we pride our selves in maintaining the highest standards.
    We are at this level Because we have excellent training and instructors and we do not accept mediocrity!!
    You can have many thousands of hours rowing a boat but taking a cruise ship out to sea is a whole new ball game …. knowledge is of utmost importance

    interview with any ex Airforce Pilot flying for Srilankan on their transition to the big jets would be nice

  12. Tom dick and Harry

    Well said…Capt.

  13. KD

    Roshan Gunatillake and his father have messed up the Air Force and this is the result.According to Nimalasiri why not also involve the Ministry of Fisheries in this matter as its too Government. All this is wheels within wheels. Send the AF guys to some foreign country which would be impartial and see the results even at Sri Lankan cost. The Guild should take the matter up head on and not bend to pressure as has been done in the past.

  14. Third Time Lucky

    People often inquire as to why so many pilots leave Sri Lanka and join foreign airlines.
    One has to only read these replies to see why. Who in their right minds would live and work in a pit of snakes?
    Aviation in Sri Lanka is like crabs in a bucket, when one smart one tries to get out the others are there in their droves to pull him back in. Shameful.
    Petty jealousy, talentless vicious individuals and absolute morons will always prevent UL from ever reaching its potential.
    You keep your keep your head held high and enjoy the the flying Adi. The bus IS a superb jet to cut your teeth on:)
    SURAKIMU LAKAMBARA

  15. Fly b

    I think sunday leader first needs to know what they are writing and I doubt if the auther has any idea of aviation from what he hears on a “hear say” basis, it all out of order. Grp. Capt. Adikaram is a great flyer, one of the best in SLAF. Now SLAF has seconded him to head the FLT OPS division at CAASL. Then CAASL got him rated on the A320 using Sri Lankan airlines. Yes he is a Designated Check Pilot (DCP) but a DCP does not mean he is Type Rated Instructor (TRI) or a Type Rated Examiner (TRI). A DCP can do route checks and do basic CPL/IR renewals.

    If any fool thinks he can do proper checks as a F/O on a Captain, he needs to have his head examined.

    If one guy deserves a break, its him.

  16. LFP

    From the above, one could see that….. “The only expansion that Sri Lankan aviation will experienced will be due to heat!” This was said by Capt. S W Jayasekara of Air Ceylon Many years ago and is still appropriate.

  17. LFP

    It is time for a lesson in history. After the RCyAF was formed, the air force pilots use to be issued with a CPL(IR)s on the strength of Master Green Ratings. In the mid seventies that practice was stopped as it was proved beyond reasonable doubt that while the experience was acceptable, the knowledge component was not up to the required standard. To be issued with a CPL a pilot had to have the knowledge and experience. There all Air Force Pilots had to sit for the CPL and the ATPL papers.. No exemptions were granted to the Air Force Pilots.

    Just for the record Sqd. Ldr. H C Fernando passed the ATPL(UK) without sitting for the CPL. Others that come to mind are Noel Lokuge,Nihal Tudugalle, Denzil Fernando, Fahir Wahab and Mani Seneviratne. Nihal Goonawardene sat the ATPL in UK. Fernando, Goonawarene and Wahab became senior Captains in the National Carrier. Many followed the same carrier path and are doing very well in the ‘civy street’

    If they could do it why can’t the rest.?

    What the no exemption policy ensured was that everyone sang from the same page. Standardization of knowledge and experience is the name of the game. Now going back to granting exemptions is a step backwards.

    Let’s face it. Thousands of hours within Sri Lanka, carrying VIPs and dropping bombs, will not equip a pilot to fly an Instrument approach into Bombay in marginal weather a twin engine, fly by wire, commercial Jet. A worse case scenario is flying to Moscow in December. There is a lot that an Air Force Pilot will not know about airline operations. The Civil Airline industry has proud traditions too. The objectives of the two were different. The 250 hour ‘Yankee pilot’ has at least the knowledge. Unfortunately for the unenlightened such as the ‘powers that be’ , a Pilot is a Pilot and there is no difference!

    Te Sri Lankan Civil Aviation Safety record is excellent, but for how long? If we water down the standards for international flying to purely accommodate our brave pilots we are going up the proverbial creek..

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