CAA shoots down 2 SriLankan pilots
By Tyron Devotta
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has grounded two SriLankan Airlines pilots for flying without valid licences. The CAA has called upon the management of SriLankan Airlines to show cause why these pilots who had no valid licence were allowed to fly the wide bodied aircraft.

Civil Aviation Chief H.M.C. Nimalsiri told The Sunday Times that in case of an accident the airline would have no way of claiming insurance if either of these pilots was in the cockpit. He said that if inspectors in international airports detected this, the aircraft would have been grounded.

Mr. Nimalsiri said that allowing pilots to fly without valid licences was a direct violation of the Chicago Convention on international civil aviation. "Sri Lanka is unnecessarily exposed by this irresponsible act of this airline," he said. Both pilots are foreign nationals: one a Russian captain and the other an Algerian first officer.

CAA investigations now reveal that the Russian captain had been flying the wide-bodied aircraft with an expired licence from November 10, 2004 to February 20 this year. The Algerian had been flying with an expired licence from January 19 this year. He had flown 10 international flights before being detected.

Mr. Nimalsiri said it was not the first time this had happened with Sri Lankan Airlines as two weeks ago they had detected a similar case. They had brought it to the notice of the management of the airline and requested corrective action.

At this point the SriLankan Airlines management had assured the CAA that they had set good systems in place to prevent pilots from flying without a licence. "Apparently the system has not worked or there may not be a system at all. It happened once before and it has happed again - now there is cause for alarm," Mr. Nimalsiri said.

The CAA has started ramp inspections on aircraft to ensure that pilots with valid licences are sitting in the cockpits of wide-bodied aircraft. "The problem is that SriLankan Airlines is not giving us proper feedback on its foreign pilots," Nimalsiri said.

The CAA chief said that when pilots left the company, the CAA was not informed. Therefore the CAA was unable to keep a proper track of the pilots flying for the airline.

According to Mr. Nimalsiri, the management of SriLankan is totally responsible.
"There is an accountable manager in the airline and he is totally responsible for this state of affairs. This incident has caused us to have serious concerns about the safety of SriLankan Airlines flights. We are conducting a full probe," he said.

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