An open letter to complain made by the Malaysia Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu for a flight delay that caused him to miss a meeting with the prime minister.
Mohamad’s office said Malaysia Airlines MH0002 was late for about two-and-a-half hours departing from Kuala Lumpur on June 15, which forced the minister to skip an “important” meeting with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in London, UK, on June 16.
Retired MAS Captain. Kamil responded to the complain in an open letter as follows;
“Two weeks ago a minister missed a very important meeting with the PM in London because his flight from KL was delayed because of technical reason.
It was well reported in the press and the Minister’s office sent a letter to the Airline with a closing statement ” diharapkan pihak Malaysia Airlines tidak akan mengulanginya pada masa akan datang” (hope that Malaysia Airlines will not repeat it in the future “)
Somebody forwarded me the letter yesterday and asked me to comment.
I must say:
*lT’S A TOUGH CALL; BESIDES NOT NECESSARY.*
Anyway for the benefit of the travelling public in general and the people in Minister’s office in particular, here is something we need to know about the Commercial Airline operations.
COMMERCIAL AIRLINE OPERATIONS
SAFETY VS SCHEDULE
Commercial Aviation is a very highly regulated industry.
The operations of the aircraft is strictly governed by the Civil Aviation Regulations.
Flying internationally, we have to comply to the respective country’s regulations.
For example, in Malaysia we have to follow Malaysian Civil Aviation Regulations; in United Kingdom, their Air Navigation Order; in United States, the Federal Air Regulations Part 121, and so on for other countries.
In essence, the ‘ingredients’ of the regulations, are the same. So, it is not difficult for the pilots to conform to them.
The Regulations clearly state that the Pilot In Command (PIC) , the *COMMANDER, IS RESPONSIBLE FOR AND IS THE FINAL AUTHORITY AS REGARDS TO THE OPERATIONS OF THE AIRCRAFT.*
There are 10 things the Commander must satisfy himself before the aircraft takes off.
One is that the aircraft is fit to fly, that is, it is AIRWORTHY.
An aircraft being a machine, is bound to encounter defects or system failure before or during the flight.
ALL defects must be reported, an entry to that effect being made in the aircraft technical log book.
ALL defects must be attended to:
– Repair being made or
– The failed part being replaced or
– In the event of inavailability of spare part or time constraint, the defect can be deferred, if permissible by the MINIMUM EQUIPMENT LIST.
If it involves an airworthiness item, for example engine, brakes and flight controls, then its NO GO.
Notwithstanding that, the Industry appreciates that there is a need for a balance in Commercial Interest VS Flight Safety.
As such, there is a provision in the Regulations, for the Commander, if in his opinion, after taking into consideration of all factors known that the safety of the flight would not be jeopardised, to ask for an *AUTHORITY TO PROCEED (ATP)*
This ATP can be given by the Company only upon consultation with the Aviation Authority.
ALL Commercial Airlines generally advocate *SAFETY BEFORE SCHEDULE.* As a matter of fact, that is Malaysia Airlines’ Corporate policy.
Whilst schedule is important, for flights to wherever and whenever possible depart and arrive on time, there are many factors whereupon the schedule cannot be adhered:
-CONSEQUENT LATE ARRIVAL
– AIRPORT CONGESTION
-WAITING FOR AIR TRAFFIC CLEARANCE
-MANY OTHER FACTORS,
-AND OF COURSE, TECHNICAL
The cause of the delays will be determined and deliberated so as to avoid such in future.
But for technical reason and weather, it would be difficult. They are beyond human control.
Notwithstanding the aforesaid, the Commander has the final say. He is given the liberty *TO EXERCISE HIS DISCRETION* accordingly when making whatever decision.
Nobody can force or pressure him to accept an aircraft with technical problem or continue an approach to landing if the weather is bad.
However, the DISCRETION MADE IS NOT ABSOLUTE. He can always if necessary, be called up to the office to explain the decision made.
To cite 2 examples why the letter from the Ministry was unwarranted:
1⃣ Many years ago, the flight of the late Yang Di Pertuan Besar of Negri Sembilan who was then Yang Di Pertuan Agong, to Perth Australia, was delayed for 6 hours- because of impending bad weather at Perth for the time of arrival; the forecast wind for the landing was very strong- beyond the aircraft’s design capability. The Yang Di Pertuan Agong did not make any fuss about the delay, nor did we receive a letter of complain from Istana Negara.
( THE REGULATIONS STATE THAT THE FLIGHT SHALL NOT DEPART IF THE FORECAST WEATHER FOR THE DESTINATION AIRPORT AT THE TIME OF ARRIVAL IS BELOW MINIMA)
2⃣ A few years later, the flight from Melbourne with the late HRH Sultan Selangor on board, encountered technical problem before departure. When the Commander went to tell him about it, HRH took it very calmly. As a matter of fact, he smiled and said, ” Saya dah agak”.
He did not get upset with the Airline nor did we get a letter of complain from the Istana.
(YOURS TRULY WAS THE COMMANDER OF BOTH FLIGHTS)
From the foregoing, pilots of Commercial aircraft do not take unnecessary risk. One thing for sure, they will not take an aircraft which is unairworthy or with major technical defect into the air knowing that, should anything untowards happen, they will go down with it.
If a Commander does so and if he does not become a casualty, if any passenger is injured or killed, he can be charged for criminal negligence. And he can be jailed if found guilty. It has happened before and can happen in future.
In any case, it is better to be late then never. Pepatah Melayu pun ada “BIAR LAMBAT ASALKAN SELAMAT”
AIRLINE INDUSTRY IS A DIFFICULT AND SERIOUS BUSINESS. LESS INTERFERENCE ( FROM POLITICIANS) THE BETTER.
1st JULY 2019
— Mohamad Sabu (@MSabu_Official) June 24, 2019