By Staff writer
Dubai carrier denies claims of pilot fatigue issue, as former colleague pays tribute to 'highly competent' captain
Flydubai has denied claims in Russian media that the airline has an issue with pilots being overworked, stating that all of its flight crew operate within strict aviation guidelines.
Russia Today, a Russian government-funded television network, reported that a former pilot with the airline has claimed that the Dubai-based carrier has an ongoing issue with pilot fatigue due to staff being overworked.
The broadcaster obtained what it says is the flight log of the co-captain of flight FZ981, Alejandro Cruz Alava, which claims to show that he had worked for eight out of the nine days (within the regulation guidelines) prior to the crash that killed all 62 on board the flight to Rostov-on-Don in south Russia on Saturday.
A former colleague of colleague of the captain of FlyDubai flight FZ981, Aristos Sokratous, admitted to local media that while a global shortage of airline pilots piles the pressure on those occupying busy rosters, it should not have been a significant factor in causing the crash.
“Most airlines are working crews heavily," the German pilot told The National newspaper, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
“A lot of FlyDubai guys are complaining about their busy rosters, but it is worse elsewhere, like in Indonesia. FlyDubai is nowhere near that level because many of their flights are short sectors," the 39-year-old added.
In a statement to Arabian Business, a FlyDubai spokesperson said the safety of its flight crew are of paramount importance, adding that it adheres to the strictest of aviation regulations which restrict annual flying time for pilots to 900 hours. The regulations also stipulate that pilots must take two days of rest every two weeks, and one day after working seven days, with one day being 36 hours free of duty.
“For flydubai the safety and welfare of our flight crew and cabin crew is of primary importance,” a FlyDubai spokesperson said. “The whole aviation industry is heavily regulated. We strictly follow authorised flying duty time regulations in compiling duty rosters, with special attention paid to the variables which affect our crews including report times, previous duty and the number of days off.”
The spokesperson added that if a member of flight crew feels that, for whatever reason, they have not been able to get enough rest before starting a shift, FlyDubai’s own Safety Management Systems (SMS), encourages pilots to declare themselves unfit to fly.
The German pilot who worked with Cypriot captain Aristos Sokratous for an airline in Asia told The National that evidence, including a recording of the crew’s conversations with Russian air traffic control prior to the crash and black and white CCTV footage, could offer clues into the causes of the tragedy.
He described Sokratous as a “very competent pilot, very easy to get along with”, and added: “I have worked with most of the flight operations staff and cabin crew at FlyDubai. It is shocking.
“I immediately feared people I know may have died. The pilots there are consummate professionals. They wouldn’t be making basic errors.”
In line with protocol, Russia has opened a criminal investigation into any possible safety breaches that may have led to the loss of all crew and passengers on board.
More than 50 investigators have been assigned to the case and are attempting to repair the damaged black box voice recorder recovered from the plane.
Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered officials on Monday to examine whether Russia’s flight safety rules need to be tightened following the crash.
The former colleague was quoted as saying that the weather could have been a major factor in the crash and possibly caused a shift in the aircraft’s centre of gravity. “In Malaysia, there are a lot of thunderstorms, so the captain will have experienced that, but maybe not crosswinds and icy weather.
“Moderate windshear is reported by the crew on the audio – [what they experienced that day] would have been very rough. Most pilots would hardly ever experience that in their career. I have only flown during wind shear once or twice.”
Other theories include a possible stall that could have caused the plane to nosedive as seen on video footage.
“In my opinion, those are the most likely scenarios,” the former colleague said. “Everyone on board would have followed a clear decision-making process.”