A Spanish consumer organisation has accused Ryanair of “jeopardising passenger safety” and called on the director of civil aviation to investigate the circumstances which led to three Ryanair flights issuing mayday calls at Valencia airport.
The mayday calls were all issued as the individual pilots believed that passengers were “threatened by serious danger” because the aircraft, which were in a holding pattern waiting to land, only had enough fuel onboard to fly for another 30 minutes.
Under international aviation rules, a pilot must make an emergency landing if he only has enough fuel on board to fly for 30 minutes or 300 miles.
Two of the mayday calls were made within minutes of one another. In the calls, the pilots warned they would have to land in Valencia as they didn’t have enough fuel to fly back to Madrid to land.
The Irish Association of Airline Pilots has accused “Ryanair’s corporate culture” of “driving pilots to do things they are not comfortable with”.
Its president, Evan Cullen, said league tables are kept by the company which record how much fuel a pilot is requesting. If a particular pilot is seen to regularly request extra fuel beyond minimum level, they can be brought for a face-to-face interview. This fuel policy, he said, had led to the unprecedented three mayday calls as pilots were being pressurised to carry as little fuel as possible.
Mr Cullen said mayday calls are far from an everyday occurrence. “Most pilots won’t ever make a mayday call,” he said. “But three from one airport in one day?”
Ryanair has rubbished IALPA’s claims and said they always comply with European aviation regulations, which stipulate the minimum amount of fuel a pilot must fly with.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio, Stephen McNamara, head of communications at Ryanair, accused the unions of “trying to muddy the waters” and that the pilots were correct to issue a mayday as, if not, they would have fallen foul of aviation regulations which say they must land with 300 miles of fuel left.
‘‘All aircraft landed normally with minimum fuel levels [approx 30 minutes of flying] remaining,” said Mr McNamara.
The planes had all been diverted from Madrid to Valencia due to thunderstorms in the Spanish capital.
The Ryanair pilots made the request for an emergency landing having been in a holding pattern for 50, 68, and 69 minutes, according to Ryanair.
Ryanair’s fuel policy is driven by its attempts to garner greater efficiency. The more fuel a plane carries, the heavier its load and hence the more fuel it burns.
The Irish Aviation Authority has launched an investigation into the three mayday calls that were made on Jul 26.
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