Hot on the heels of yesterday evening’s Channel 4 Dispatches about Ryanair, the Millwall of air carriers (everybody hates us and we don’t care), Michael O’Leary and his merry men have apparently instructed lawyers and the company “looks forward to this matter being resolved in the courts”. But many industry watchers will be asking not about the programme’s content, but what was missed out.
Channel 4 is warmly welcomed to Dublin
While Ryanair management will be rightly concerned about any adverse comment on the safety of their operations – safe operation, after all, is their business – there have been a number of well documented incidents in the recent past which have all been, shall we say, avoidable. The impression is given, in all these cases, that pressure to save and/or make up time has been a contributory factor.
The incident that Dispatches did mention, a missed approach to Memmingen Airport in September last year, bears further examination, and the German safety authority has issued an Interim Report. The flight deck had requested use not of the operational runway (06) but to land from the opposite direction (24) to save time. Voice transcripts suggest the pilot flying (PF) was not 100% sure of the procedure.
As the aircraft approached, its sink rate (the rate of descent) was high, and there was a tailwind component of over 25 knots. The plane’s altitude dropped to 460 feet above ground level at one point. Whether or not this was totally safe I will not comment further, except to note that subjecting passengers to a right bank angle of 25 degrees, followed by a left bank angle of 35 degrees, is, er, unusual.
And not for the first time, the cockpit voice recording (CVR) was not preserved. This was also the case when a Ryanair flight landed at Alicante airport without contacting the tower and receiving permission in January 2011. Also, in both cases, the co-pilot did not have an Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence (ATPL). Last October, a Ryanair flight took off from Eindhoven airport without first getting clearance to do so.
There are plenty more of these incidents, even without the arguments over fuel reserves that took up much of the Dispatches programme. For instance, the August 2008 coming together of a Ryanair Boeing 737 and a stationary Lufthansa A320 at Manchester airport after the flight deck on the 737 thought they had sufficient room to pass behind the A320, before finding out they didn’t.
And the late 2008 incident at Stansted, when another Ryanair 737 attempted a crossbleed engine start while being pushed back by a tug (the driver of which had to abandon his vehicle in order to prevent his being sucked into the powered-up engine) again suggest time pressure – as well as showing the hours that some of the company’s pilots are racking up.
I don’t dispute Ryanair’s 29-year safety record. I’d just like it to stay that way.