Solair management accused of unfairness in handling ‘smoking captain’ incident
By Gary Hatigeva
THE Solomon Airlines executive is being accused for not taking immediate action on reports that exposed one of its expatriate pilots who was caught smoking in the twin otter’s cockpit while the plane was loading for its return flight to Honiara from Rennell Island, in Renbel province last week.
The ‘smoking incident’ first made headlines on local online media forums and later in the mainstream media.
Airline Management said last week that they were taking action on the matter.
However, despite the reports and claims of action on the matter, the expatriate pilot according to our sources is still working, and this, the management, and even the board could not give a direct explanation to.
It is understood that the captain had been employed as a check n trainer, whose duty is to uphold flight standards for domestic pilots.
It is also understood that smoking in the cockpit of Solomon Airlines aircraft is illegal and unsafe and a serious breach of aviation rules.
Meanwhile, sources argued that the manner in which the board and management is handling the case is ‘uncalled for as it is very discriminative’.
Sources say it is discriminative in nature because in the past, local pilots have been fired in short circuited processes for much less serious breaches, citing the recent sacking of a local engineer for a serious incident at Munda, who was sacked on the spot.
The Board was contacted over this yesterday and questioned over what the management’s legal position on the captain’s serious breach of aviation law, and on the basis they have decided to continue the employment of the pilot, who according to our sources, is still with the company.
“Is there a different treatment for expatriate and local staff?” “Because if no proper action is done straight away given that evidences are already there, then it shows a management that operates with a discriminative operation.
“And it also looks like the management is probably considering making smoking in Solomon Airlines, acceptable for the airline,” sources stressed.
In his response, Acting CEO Bill Tyson referred to an earlier media response, which he said has clearly set out the company’s standard operating procedures to be followed in these circumstances.
Tyson added that the procedures referred to include the submission of the Company Safety Reporting System, “AIRS” report which was immediately directed to the affected managers and to CAASI.
Tyson did not deny claims of the pilot’s current working status as revealed by our sources, but explained that an internal investigation is being carried out.
“The matter will be discussed by EXCO when all responses are at hand and appropriate action will be taken,” Tyson furthered.
“In the case of the Munda incident, the former staff member involved willfully damaged the aircraft making it unflyable.
“This incident caused a serious disruption in the schedule and cost a significant amount of money,” the Chairman of the Airline Board explained.
But sources say the board and management are still not being honest about the situation and suggested that the right thing for them to do was to suspend the pilot if the evidence is not enough, while the investigation is ongoing.
“Unfortunately, that is not the case, because he is still working and getting his normal expat salary, like there was no serious breach in aviation laws here,” sources claimed.
Sources label SolAir management’s lethargic action as unfair, especially with the usage of the term ‘willfully’ by Tyson to describe the engineer’s action in the Munda incident.
Sources say the ‘smoking pilot’ had also willfully breached protocols by ‘willfully smoking in the cockpit’ therefore due action should be taken impartially.