Over-reacting to Flydubai safety reports

The Guardian’s front page today screams (as much as the Guardian ever screams) “Pilots warn of safety fears at budget airline.”

The Guardian has seen 413 air safety reports written by Flydubai flightdeck crew following in a two-month period. These appear to be written earlier this year in the time around the fatal crash of FZ981 at Rostov-on-Don.

A number of the ASRs make reference to the Rostov crash. This inevitably was traumatic for many crew members and no doubt added to stress and fatigue factors at that time.

Of the 413 reports some 40 describe concerns about fatigue. Less than 10%.

Fatigue at FZ is probably less of an issue than at other Middle East carriers. Crews are basically home every day. Yes they are working night or day shifts. These shifts can be long and require some difficult flying. But crews are not away from home; jet-lagged after crossing multiple time-zones; sleepless and then having to fly home 24 hours later.

The other air safety reports also refer to incidents where, it is claimed:

One pilot’s “dangerous” flying technique was criticised by an angry colleague who expressed serious concerns following a particularly harsh “bounced” landing.
A pilot conceded his plane had become uncontrollable and increased speed sharply during a period of severe turbulence.
A senior member of crew was reprimanded after falling asleep in business class during a flight – and nodding off again after he was woken.
A pilot complained his aircraft was unstable because 2,800kg of truffles had been placed in the wrong cargo compartment.

Other reports refer to drunk passengers; bird strikes; laser use; sick passengers or crew or concerns with atc or ground procedures at destination airfields.

There is a huge danger of over-reacting to these reports which the Guardian released last night.

Here is some of the less considered responses on twitter.

Probably best not to use budget airline FlyDubai judging by Grauniad’s front page. 🇬🇧✈️#FlyDubai#airlines#travel

Want to fly #FlyDubai think twice as airline pilots complain of dangerous fatigue in leaked documents #airlinesafety

Worrying news on front of tomorrow’s @guardian re: #FlyDubai pilot exhaustion. Tired/overworked flight crew are a serious risk to air travel

‘Over-tired’ FlyDubai pilots flag concerns about working ‘too many hours’

Pilots at this budget airline say they’re being forced to fly dangerously long hours

I have read through many of the ASRs. The flight crew come out of them pretty well. Sensible; practical and not afraid to say when things are wrong.

What did strike me is the range and complexity of issues the crews have to deal with; particularly across such a diverse network including airfields with (how to be polite) less than first class facilities and unreliable atc.

Remember the Flydubai network includes places and airfields that many people have neither heard of or could find on a map.

The villain in many of the fatigue reports does appear to be the airline’s Network Control Centre and the pressure they put on flight deck crews to complete flights. I suspect the NCC will be criticised in the final Rostov report for encouraging the crew to hold at Rostov rather than divert.

The Guardian report is here:

Airline pilots complain of dangerous fatigue in leaked documents

Flydubai’s response is here:

Flydubai’s response to the leaked air safety reports

The Guardian has published as selection of the ASRs here:

Flydubai flight records – the leaked documents

It is also worth noting that every airline has a mechanism for reporting safety concerns. There is little that is unusual about the Flydubai ASRs.

The good news is that pilots are completing ASRs and clearly assume that they will be read and maybe even acted upon.

The NCC pressures are probably similar to those at any other LCC where it is important to try to get the fleet back to its home base at the end of each day to avoid network disruption.

As an insight into airline operations it is interesting. Any suggestion that flyDubai does not take safety seriously would be erroneous and a misleading conclusion from these reports.


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