‘Our lives in their hands’
Posted on March 1st, 2012

Dr. Tilak Fernando

SriLankan Airlines recently awarded ‘Wings’ to a batch of cadet pilots after a stringent training programme. They obtained the CAASL licence (Civil Aviation Authority), a globally recognised certification. The Nations’ flag carrier recruits two cadet batches each year for training and presently has a total strength of approximately 267 pilots serving in its cadre.

With the commissioning of an A320 Full Flight Simulator facility at the Airlines’ own Flight Academy, future trainee pilots with SriLankan will have the advantage of obtaining Flight Simulator experience.

With plans for expanding the fleet size to 30 aircraft by 2015, it is expected that more recruitment will be initiated to meet growing demand to increase its route network.

Easy accessibility of air travel encourages people to travel frequently nowadays. Aero engineers and designers have over the years contributed immensely to come up with up-to-date models for the convenience and safety of air travellers. Level of luxury in the latest range of planes varies from the normal business class to advanced facilities such as complete office environments for the business class traveller with comfortable sleeping and showering facilities.

Given that backdrop, airline operators, pilots and engineering sectors carry a gargantuan responsibility morally and legally for hundreds of thousands of air passengers they transport on a daily basis throughout the world.


Air accidents, by far, are rare, but there have been several instances where human error, sheer negligence on the part of pilots, technical hitches and/or poor aircraft maintenance from engineering sections of airlines were accountable.

An amateur video footage showing an out-of-control Russian jet plane above Moscow became a web sensation in May 2011. The video showed the ‘dancing plane’, Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft veering from side-to-side above a military aerodrome in Russia.

The skillful professionalism and supreme ingenuity of the pilot managed to land on the second attempt at Chkalovsk aerodrome safely avoiding any casualties.

On May 7, 2011, it was reported that a plane carrying about 25 passengers and crew crashed into the sea during a downpour in Eastern Indonesia, killing everyone on board.

In April 2010 an aero plane operated by Merpati Nusantara overran a runway after landing in Manokwari in West Papua, breaking into three pieces and injuring 44 out of more than 100 people on board.

During an internal flight, in 2009, a Twin Otter plane operated by the same airline crashed into the side of a mountain in remote Papua, killing all 16 people on board.

In 2007, a plane operated by the now-defunct Adam Air with 102 passengers and crew crashed in deep water off the coast of Sulawesi, with no survivors.

A Russian Airbus went down in Siberia in April 1994 with a full complement of passengers without a single survivor.

The actual blame was thrust upon the co-pilot who was alleged to have given ‘flying lessons’ to his young son in the cockpit! The assumption was that the ‘trainee’ must have made an error that put the aircraft into an uncontrollable nose-dive!

On April 26, 1994 Airbus, 300-600R belonging to the China Airlines crashed killing all but nine out of 271 passengers on board. It was due to accidental flipping of a cockpit switch which was supposed to have activated a system to automatically increase the jet’s engine thrust, so that it could gain height and attempt another approach.

On January 20, 1992, an Airbus 320 had a fatal crash near Strasbourg, France, which prompted an official enquiry by the French Aviation Authorities.

Engineering section of airlines take an enormous responsibility on the safety aspect of the planes.

SriLankan Engineering is a holder of the prestigious EASA 145 certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency, and is recognised as the Best Global Operator of both A330 and A340 from Airbus Industry.

Life drama

Experience inside an aircraft during stormy weather or turbulence could be quite horrifying. Here’s a typical ‘replay’ of a life drama:

Video mechanism inside the aircraft warned passengers to wear seatbelts. Then a voice on the intercom alerted of a minor turbulence and requested all passengers to fasten seatbelts.

Many of the travellers became apprehensive. Little later, the same calm voice announced: “Sorry we are unable to serve the meal at this time. Turbulence is still ahead of us.”

The ominous cracks of thunder and a storm could be heard even above the howl of the engines.

Lightning illuminated the darkened skies, and within split seconds the huge plane tossed around on the celestial ocean like a cork. One moment it was lifted on terrific currents of air, the next, it dropped as if it were about to crash. Passengers shared the discomfort and fear of those around them; nearly all the passengers were alarmed, and some praying and were wondering whether they could make it through the storm.

For a little girl seated alone the storm meant nothing. She tucked her feet beneath her and read a book. Sometimes she closed her eyes, then she read again; then straightened her legs, but worry and fear were not written on her face.

When the plane buffeted by the terrible storm and all adults were ‘scared to death’, the cool child remained completely self-possessed.

The plane finally reached its destination safe and sound and all the passengers were hastening to disembark. The passenger seated next to the child whispered in her ear:

“Why were you not afraid during the storm darling” ……….?

The sweet child replied,

“Sir, my Dad is the Pilot, and he is taking me home – No worries…………………….!”

The skill of a pilot depends on how he controls his aircraft during take-off and particularly during landing operations so that passengers do not feel uncomfortable but safe. When passengers step into an aircraft everyone settles down into their seats with full of confidence and placing their lives literally in the capable hands of the professional pilot of the aircraft while they travel in ‘God’s land’!


Dear Dr. Tilak S. Fernando,
I just finished reading your interesting andƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ meaningfulƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ article in the CDN of 1st March 2012, captioned, “Our Lives In Their Hands’.
Please view the attached video. It is a good liveƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ example to support your views and advice.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 
Subject:ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Sri Lankan Flight from Heathrow
Damaging Publicity !!!!

One Response to “‘Our lives in their hands’”

  1. Wickrama Says:

    Damaging Publicity?? NOT for SriLankan airlines!
    On the contrary, evidence of skill of the pilot in adverse weather conditions! Note the snow covered ground. Tarmac may not have been cleared of snow/ice properly.

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