Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Flydubai air crash

In an earlier post, the blog drew attention to how the economic consequences upon a co-pilot being suspended for revealing his mental health problems contributed to his decision to commit suicide and crash his plane, killing himself and all his passengers.

In another crash, the blame again is being placed on economics, but this time, of the air company over-working their air crews. Flydubai FZ981 crashed in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don that killed all 62 people on board

A former Flydubai captain on condition of anonymity revealed that pilots are forced to work while exhausted, while saying he had been “worked to death” despite complaints. Pilots are being repeatedly overworked and not given enough time to sleep between flights. The former captain added he was sure that sleep deprivation had contributed to the Flydubai flight FZ981 crash in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, which killed all 62 passengers and crew on board.
“The way that [Flydubai] … builds the schedules does not account for circadian rhythm … they do not allow pilots to get the right amount of rest, or the proper rest before a flight, and that is exactly what both of these pilots were, the situation that they were in, for sure,” the pilot said. “I remember one report, when I still worked there, a pilot filed a safety report saying that him and another pilot fell asleep after taking off from one of the out stations and they were probably asleep for about eight minutes … I know that sounds crazy but it is extremely easy to fall asleep. It’s the same noise level and it’s quite boring, and the autopilot is on,” the former captain said.

The co-captain of flight FZ981, which revealed that Alejandro Cruz Alava had worked for 11 days with only one day off prior to the crash. Alava had been transferred from day flights to night flights without being given enough time to readjust his sleep pattern. The former pilot said. “There’s is no doubt he was fatigued and exhausted for this flight ... that definitely was a contributing factor, no matter how [Flydubai] may try to deny it.”

Even worse, is that this type of hectic schedule is technically legal. “A lot of things legal that are just wrong, so [the airline] did have a legal schedule but it was not a healthy schedule,” the whistleblower said.

The captain of the flight, Aristos Socratous, had reportedly filed paperwork containing his resignation because of the unbearable schedule, and only had a few weeks left to fly, according to unnamed colleagues of the deceased. “The reason that the captain was resigning is because of the schedules, he just couldn’t do it anymore. He was too tired, going to work fatigued, and that is actually why he had resigned.”

The problem of fatigue has been well reported within the airline, and most of the pilots foresaw the possibility of a crash due to over-exhaustion. The former pilot cited an internal survey that asked “Do you think there’s going to be a crash?”  “Over 80% of the pilots that participated … said yes, there will be a crash at Flydubai. And it’s unbelievable, I mean they knew this was coming, they absolutely knew it and of course they will blame it on the pilots.” Rather than trying to fix the problem, Flydubai reportedly created a culture that shamed pilots for feeling tired, calling them “prima donnas” if they complained.

“I know when I was still with Flydubai there were meetings every two weeks with the chief pilot … In most of those meetings [sleep deprivation] was always brought up and in fact in one of the meetings, the chief pilot referred to us as a bunch of prima donnas, like we complain too much, that’s exactly what he said. He said, ‘you guys are just a bunch of prima donnas.’”

An Air Safety Report (ASR) from September 2015 seen by RT shows that many pilots reported showing up for work feeling exhausted and overworked.  One of the submissions read: “I called in fatigued today for a 0125 local report. Prior to this I had 10 days duty with one day off. Those duties consisted of two 18-30 hour rest periods, a layover, 2 very early reports and 2 long double sector days. The combination of this has meant that I have had very little quality sleep throughout this roster period. I would also contribute the previous month’s roster, where I was roster for 92 hours, a contributing factor to fatigue that I am feeling.” Another submission said: “Called fatigued … Was unable to get sufficient sleep before start of standby, albeit all efforts made … Issue is if I am called off standby for a long duty … that’s potentially well over 24 hours no sleep operating a flight.”

The former pilot said people need to be aware of what is going on behind the scenes at Flydubai.
“It’s ridiculous that there’s been an aviation industry for so long and this stuff is still going on. And you hear about people being worked to death. I had some months at Flydubai where I really felt like I was being worked to death. And I just couldn’t do it. [People] buy an airplane ticket and they assume that they are safe on the airplane, but the way that an airline like Flydubai rosters their pilots, it’s not safe. It’s not safe at all,” he said.

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