Breaking The Rules
- Civil Aviation Authority Relaxes Rules For Military Pilots
By Nirmala Kannangara
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.
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.”