There are many reviews about Air Asia’s low prices, seating and service standards on the various consumer sites or travel reports on the internet. Some critical, some favourable.
However this correspondence, forwarded to Plane Talking by Dick Smith, is in a class of its own, both for the observational details and the responses received by the passenger.
Smith says “The honesty and openness of the replies from the carrier and aviation authority is very impressive. It would be great if this was replicated by Australian carriers and our authorities when members of the public draw attention to issues that concern them, even if the concerns may be misplaced to some extent.”
This is the correspondence between the passenger (name withheld) and Air Asia and with the Malaysia Department of Civil Aviation.
It appears that air safety rules in Malaysia may be somewhat laid-back.
Please read the following correspondence and give me your opinion and comments.
WOULD YOU BE HAPPY ON A FLIGHT KNOWING THAT THE CAPTAIN OR FIRST OFFICER WERE ONLY IN THE COCKPIT FOR TAKE-OFF AND LANDING?
DO THESE RULES APPLY IN AUSTRALIA?
DOES AN ENGINEER WEAR AN IDENTICAL UNIFORM (WITH FOUR GOLD BARS ON HIS SHOULDERS) TO AN AIRCRAFT CAPTAIN?
ARE THEIR FLIGHT ENGINEERS ON AIRBUS A320 AIRCRAFT?
(Name supplied and confirmed)
COPY OF EMAIL TO AIR ASIA, KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
Booking No. xxxxxx included the return flight AK5163 Sandakan to Kuala Lumpur on 23 August 2010.
An incident occurred with the Captain of the aircraft which was totally unacceptable. I was seated in seat 30A. Approximately 45 minutes into the flight I noticed the captain loitering between the cockpit and the first row of seats. He did not appear to be doing anything meaningful, just wandering aimlessly. He would come out from behind the partition, look towards the rear of the aircraft and then wander back behind the partition. I thought this was a little strange, so I watched him. He then came out from behind the partition an this time looked to the rear of the aircraft with a look than showd he was looking for something in particular. He then walked to the back of the aircraft. As he passed me I noticed a smirky look on his face. After he has been in the rear galley area for 20 to 30 minutes the laughter and noise level had increased to such an extent that I wondered why the captain had not returned to the cockpit. I unbucked my seat belt and went to the rear galley. The captain had his back to me and appeared to be entertaining the flight attendants who joined in the laughter. I tapped the captain (who had four gold stripes on his shoulders) and asked him if he was the captain of this flight. He replied that he was. I asked him how many pilots were in the cockpit and he relied that one pilot was in the cockpit. I asked him why he had not returned to the cockpit and he laughed at me. It took me considerable pursuation to convince the captain that it was his job to be in the cockpit and not in the rear galley entertaining the cabin flight attendants. I think he may have been concerned that he would loose face with the flight attandants if he returned to the cockpit. However, he did return to the cockpit. Also, as well as the captain and the flight attendants, there was also another Air Asia pilot who also appeared to have the rank of captain, as he too had four gold stripes on each shoulder, in the rear galley area at the same time.
If two pilots were socialising in the rear galley, I wander if there really was a pilot in the cockpit. I hope that the aircraft was not flying on auto-pilot without a pilot to monitor the instruments.
As I understand commercial flight rules, there must be two pilots in the cockpit at all times, unless there are circumstances which require a pilot to leave the cockpit. And then he must return as soon as possible.
It appears that the fun and friendliness of the flight attendants has brought out a weakness in this captain which requires your attention.
This matter is very serious and could have jeopodised the safety of all people on board should an emergency have occurred.
As this stage I have not reported the incident to the Malaysian Air Safety Authority. I will wait for your reply before doing so. However, should you decide to ignore this matter I will advise the civil aviation and air safety authorities in Malaysia.
This matter is serious and should be investigated for you to ascertain exactly what the cirmstances were for the captain of the aircraft to be absent from the cockpit for twenty to thirty minutes during the flight.
I await your reply
Reply from Air Asia….
An internal investigation was recently carried out and all crew members were questioned on the events onboard AK5163/23AUG10.
The Captain of the flight, Captain Wan Nazarudin did indeed leave the Flight Deck with the intention of using the toilet. He initially waited in the forward cabin area for the forward toilet to become available. This would have been when (name), who was seated in the second last row of the plane, saw the Captain “loitering” in the front section of the aircraft. After some time, as the forward toilet continued to be occupied, Captain Wan Nazarudin decided to proceed to the aft section of the aircraft to use the toilets there. According to him and the crew members present, the aft toilets were occupied too. While at the aft cabin, he had a chat with the Flight Attendants and the travelling Engineer. My assumption is that Mr Murphy mistook the travelling Engineer as another pilot as he was also in his full uniform consisting of a white shirt, black pants and gold striped epaulettes.
On investigating the length of time that the Captain was out of the Flight Deck, the First Officer and Flight Attendants all independently stated that he was out of the Flight Deck for approximately 15 minutes and not 20-30 minutes as Mr Murphy as claimed. Our company policy does allow our pilots to leave the Flight Deck for physiological needs and at all times, the fully trained First Officer would have been in full control and able to handle any untoward incident. However, our company appreciates the concern that Mr (name) has shown towards the safety of the flight and has taken Captain Wan Nazarudin to task for the apparent “extended period of time” spent outside the Flight Deck. In addition, a notice will be sent to the pilots reminding them of the company policy and highlighting the need to be more responsible in the interest of flight safety and public perception.
I do hope this explanation will suffice. I will be more than happy to provide additional information should it be required.
Captain Rajesh Gill
LCC Terminal, Jalan KLIA S3,
Southern Support Zone
Kuala Lumpur International Airport,
64000 Sepang, Selangor Darul Ehsan,
EMAIL FROM THE DIRECTOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL AVIATION, KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
Dato’ Yahaya B. Abdul Rahman To:
(name and email address)
An internal investigation was recently carried out and all crew members were questioned on the events onboard AK5163
Dear (name) ,
I have received the respond from AA Flight Operations Department which is self explanatory. Please read the explanation and revert back to me for any furthur comment. Our Civil Aviation Regulation 1996, under Regulation 56 (1) require one pilot to remain at the controls at all times while the aircraft is in flight. However for two pilots operations the commander shall remain at the controls during take off and landing.