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Safety questioned at Hong Kong Airlines?

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Safety questioned at Hong Kong Airlines?

Old 22nd Jul 2013, 23:36
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Safety questioned at Hong Kong Airlines?

Safety questioned at Hong Kong Airlines

Company defends its record as captain speaks out on what he calls 'terrible standards'
SCMP Sunday, 21 July, 2013

Simon Parry

As Christopher Allan prepared to jet out of Hong Kong with his family before taking up a new job overseas, one thing was certain about their travel arrangements: They wouldn't be flying with Hong Kong Airlines.
"I wouldn't put my wife and kids on Hong Kong Airlines - I really wouldn't," the 56-year-old said of one of the world's youngest and fastest-growing airlines.
Like any paying customer, Allan is entitled to choose whatever airline he feels happiest with. What makes his choice intriguing, however, is that Allan was moving abroad after working as a senior captain and examiner of pilots on Hong Kong Airlines.
His lack of faith in the airline, he says, is based upon his experiences in two years as a pilot with Hong Kong Airlines and the "terrible standards" he claims to have encountered while testing pilots in simulators last year.
A former British Royal Air Force pilot, Allan spent more than 21 years with Cathay Pacific where he flew Boeings and worked as a pilot examiner before retiring and then joining Hong Kong Airlines in 2010 where he retrained to become an Airbus captain.
Two years later - and just two months after being appointed an examiner - Allan resigned from his position over what he claimed were worryingly poor standards among the pilots he tested and his general concern over safety issues at the seven-year-old airline, which has a fleet of 28 aircraft.
Weeks later, while he was serving out his notice, he says he was asked by his manager to "go easy" when he conducted a mandatory six-monthly test in a flight simulator on a senior airline executive who still captains some flights.
When he refused the request, Allan says, he was removed from examining duties before the test. He responded by contacting the Civil Aviation Department and asking it to sit in on the examination which, Allan says, the executive duly failed.
Allan and another serving Hong Kong Airlines pilot called for a meeting with department officials at which they presented documents outlining a series of alleged irregularities in Hong Kong Airlines practices, which they asked officials to investigate.
It was what Allan saw as the department's unwillingness to act upon his complaints that made him go public with his concerns as he left Hong Kong to take up a new position as a pilot with Etihad.
Hong Kong Airlines declined to comment directly on Allan's complaints, but said in a statement: "Safety has always been our number one priority and will always be We always comply with all safety standards set by the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department, which are regarded as the strictest in the world."
A department spokesperson denied Allan's complaints had been overlooked and said in a statement: "An investigation was conducted in response to Mr Allan's complaints and so far there is no objective evidence to support Mr Allan's complaints."
In an interview shortly before he left Hong Kong, Allan told the South China Morning Post that his experiences as an examiner, giving mandatory six-monthly tests to the airline's community of pilots, had appalled him.
"In the short time from August to October, when I resigned, I saw such terrible standards throughout the airline that I was honour-bound to hand in my notice," he said. "There is nothing worse in aviation than working for a company that doesn't respect safety and standards. At Cathay, I failed one or two guys in 21 years. At this airline, it was two a week. They were that bad. The standards were so poor."
Allan said: "From personally examining individuals in the [flight] simulator, I have seen standards I have never seen in 36 years in aviation."
In the simulator tests he conducted as an examiner, he says he encountered "captains who could not do approaches guys drifting off the runway and almost crashing, totally misunderstanding the whole safety issues of the aircraft and losing an engine".
Allan described the standard of pilots at the airline as "minimal". "There are some good pilots, but there is an overwhelming number of very average to below average pilots and that was reflected in their failure rate," he said. "When I resigned I said to the director of flight ops, 'I'm sorry but I cannot stay with this airline because I am being associated with a standard that is below industry levels'.
"His reply to me was, 'I had to get aircraft airborne and people in seats to fly them. We will get better'.
"I told him, 'You are not doing anything to reach the standard'."
In his resignation letter to the director of flight operations, S.Y. Chow on October 22, Allan wrote: "It is with regret that my aspirations for a career in [Hong Kong Airlines] do not coincide with that of the company and management. On too many occasions, I find my principles and standards in conflict with those of our daily operation."
Within weeks, Allan says he was asked by a manager three or four days ahead of a scheduled test to "go easy" on a senior airline executive who was to take a routine examination in a simulator. "He [the manager] said 'Be lenient on him because he doesn't fly a lot'," he said. "Basically, I said to the manager I would treat him the same as everyone else. He then chose to take me off the roster and put another examiner on. I saw the roster change and called up crew control and said 'Why was I taken off the check?' The crew controller said they wanted a Mandarin-speaking examiner, which is totally against regulations. The check is done in English. I then called the company and asked why I was taken off the check. They put me back on the check, but a day later they removed me from examining duties."
Allan said he then alerted the department, asking it to do a no-notice check on the exam. They did as he requested and the executive failed the simulator check and subsequently had to undergo retraining, he said.
Asked about the incident, the department spokesman said: "Mr Allan made a formal written complaint against Hong Kong Airlines on 12 November 2012. The CAD immediately performed an inspection on the flying training of [Hong Kong Airlines] on 13 November 2012. No anomalies were found and Mr Allan was informed of the result."
Stripped of his examining duties, Allan and another serving pilot then compiled a dossier of alleged irregularities and safety issues in the airline's operations, and called for a meeting with department officials.
A meeting at the department was held on December 5 involving the two pilots, three senior department officials and a representative from Hong Kong Airlines, according to documents seen by the Post.
A dossier of e-mails and internal reports on incidents involving Hong Kong Airlines planes, which were allegedly either not reported or not acted upon correctly was offered to the department officials at the meeting, but not accepted, according to Allan.
"I am very disappointed with the CAD," he said. "The CAD has always been an authority I have looked up to and here they are not even doing their job."
The department spokesman said Allan was asked to provide documentary proof of his allegations "to support our investigation" after the meeting on December 5. "No further documents have been received," the statement said.
"Nevertheless, in view of the serious allegation, albeit verbal or without solid evidence, the CAD has performed a thorough investigation and so far no objective evidence could be found to substantiate Mr Allan's allegation."
Any suggestion that the department had not taken seriously or properly investigated Allan's claims was unfair and unfounded, the statement said. "Safety is always our top and utmost priority, and therefore we treat every enquiry and complaint against safety seriously," it said.
"We have been handling Mr Allan's complaint according to established procedures, and despite the lack of document proofs, we investigated each of Mr Allan's allegation(s)."
In response to Mr Allan's complaints that safety standards are so low at Hong Kong Airlines that it could be at risk of an accident, the statement said: "While the CAD will not comment on individual operator's performance, we would like to reiterate that Hong Kong Airlines is one of the airlines holding a Hong Kong Air Operator's Certificate.
"Its operations are regulated and monitored closely by the CAD. To ensure safe operations and the operator's compliance with the CAD's requirements, we regularly hold meetings with HKA, conduct various inspections and audits on flight operations and airworthiness aspects similar to what we do to other local airlines."
In a written statement, an airline spokesman said: "Hong Kong Airlines has a policy of not commenting on matters concerning our former employees."
However, the statement went on: "Hong Kong Airlines is committed to growing in Hong Kong. In the last two years, we have put great resources and capital in sustaining this commitment.
"We now provide more than 2,000 jobs [and] contribute to the prosperity of the Hong Kong SAR. Our drive to realise our goals is not and will never be at the expense of safety and standards.
"As a young and growing airline, Hong Kong Airlines is in need of human resources, especially those in critically important positions, which include the pilots. In the process, we have been reaching out to attract the best personnel, but retaining only those who are able to meet our standards.
"We make no apology for making sure that only competent and safe pilots are at the control of our aircraft."
The statement concluded: "We would also like to add that all reports that affect safety are scrutinised and acted upon, without hindrance or influence by our top management, unless they are baseless, frivolous and not substantiated."
Allen, for his part, insists his only motivation in speaking out was to respond to his professional conscience.
"I am not trying to bring this airline down. I am trying to bring it up," he said. "If they don't sort this out and administer a proper standard, they [Hong Kong Airlines] will have a hull loss - in other words a crash.
"Colleagues have said to me 'If you say nothing, you will have resigned, walked away and taken a job with Etihad.' "They told me 'If there is a crash, people will say 'What did you say? Who did you tell?'"
dflyer is offline  
Old 23rd Jul 2013, 01:30
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Ouch! Standby for corporate spin control. I have to say, I would have done the same thing. If/when a hull loss occurs, he can now sleep a bit better. The only thing keeping these airlines from consistent tragedy, is the A320 that was designed with 3rd world pilot's in mind. (No, not a dis to the many gifted pilots who do fly the 320) but a printed fact that these aircraft were designed with a less experienced pilot in mind.

Cathay can charge more for their tickets for a reason!
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Old 23rd Jul 2013, 03:20
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For about 20 years when the first icadet gets a command.
crwkunt roll is offline  
Old 23rd Jul 2013, 07:30
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Here we go again bashing the locals. Don't think any of you would have the balls to say this in front of the local STCs when they do your ALC or PC.
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Old 23rd Jul 2013, 09:43
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To be fair. "iCadet" doesn't necessarily mean local, and say what you want, in my book whatever else the guys n gals may lack because of "the system", I for one can't fault any of the "locals" for lack of effort on preparation.
(NB I didn't say I think the current intake "plan" is wise or sustainable)
White None is offline  
Old 23rd Jul 2013, 10:02
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Really puts the buck on the CAD. They better pray that HK Airlines does not have an accident, otherwise they are opening themselves up for a major lawsuit from the flying public who have put their trust on their oversight.

They basically have vouched that HK Airlines is safe and they found no problem in their "investigation". Yet, after sitting in on this management checkride, they found the pilot not up to spec.

We all know the CAD lack at their job, but they are usually pretty aggressive at going out of their way to prevent anything being pinned on them. That is why I'm surprised that they are willing to look away and not even accept the evidence provided by this individual.
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Old 23rd Jul 2013, 10:59
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Don't think that unmentionable Airline in AUH will like to have a person joining them who goes public on issues
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Old 23rd Jul 2013, 12:44
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The Training Captain in this article does not fear any Aviation Authority as he is financially sound and has nothing to lose. He has his ducks in a row and is able to go public without fear of losing out on a long and prosperous airline career.

He must be over 60 years old and its guys like this that will bring any shortfalls in the training system to light. We need more "whistle blowers" like him in the airline industry.

Airlines are relying on the "cadet" system so they can increase profits while reducing the cost of Pilots. There is not much else any bean counter can do on a balance sheet - the cost of Crew is the ONLY variable , until you have an incident like Asiana 214.

Last edited by Ghost_Rider737; 23rd Jul 2013 at 12:51.
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Old 23rd Jul 2013, 13:55
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His remarks were scurrilous and unfounded. They are the comments of a bitter and angry man. Nothing more. How dare he spout this crap about people he was working with only a few weeks ago. He tarred every single one with the same brush.
He deserves to be sued, and I really hope it happens.
He won't be so financially sound if some of the high-time and highly experienced HKA pilots take a class action against him for professional defamation.
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Old 23rd Jul 2013, 14:00
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Don't think that unmentionable Airline in AUH will like to have a person joining them who goes public on issues
First thought that came to mind was I hope he hasn't jeopardized his position with unmentionable Airline in AUH. The unmentionable airline does not like any publicity except from friendly sources.
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Old 23rd Jul 2013, 14:55
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White None is correct, iCadet doesn't necessarily mean local, however I can assure you cyrex, our excellent local STC's and TC's are very aware, as are many of the more senior pilots, that CX has a big, big problem on its hands with respect to the current generation of pilots joining.

As a side note, is it just me, or is everyone sick and tired of HKCAD, HKA and CX all stating that "Safety is our number one priority"?

It's simply a marketing slogan, and that's about the extent of it.

Let's see...

16 years ago, new Directly Entry Second Officers would have about 3,000 - 5,000 hours of either Military, Jet Airliners, Regional Airlines or General Aviation under their belts. In conjunction with the excellent excellent cadets. We had a very healthy mix of experience and inexperience joining our ranks.

Everyone would then do :

A full First Officer Conversion in the Simulator leading to approximately 16-18 simulators.

Be rostered for 1 simulator module session per month as part of their on going training program as an S/O.

Upon JF/O upgrade, they would do a 3 Base Training Sessions in the actual aircraft, followed by a 60 sector JF/O upgrade course before being checked out.

Cut forward to today...

A typical new S/O has 200-300 hours. That's it. Very, very few experienced joiners.

Second Officer Simulator Conversion is only now a handful of simulators (5-6)

Instead of doing 1 simulator module per month, as years gone by, they now do 1 every 2 months.

Instead of 3 aircraft Base Training flights, that's been cut back to 2 sessions.

The JF/O upgrade course has also now been reduced by 6 sectors, making a full course 54 sectors instead of the original 60.

So you can see at every point, the training program has been cut back and this isn't for guys with 3,000-5,000 hours, it's for new joiners today who have typically 200-300 hours. Guys that can't afford the training cut backs, but instead should be having more.

Remind me again how this fits into the marketing slogan "Safety is Our Number One Priority".
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Old 23rd Jul 2013, 15:23
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Instead of 3 aircraft Base Training flights, that's been cut back to 2 sessions.
Actually it can be done in one session. All it needs is 3 unassisted landings and off they go.
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Old 24th Jul 2013, 01:47
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Ahh, that old chestnut where every generation thinks the next is not as good
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Old 24th Jul 2013, 02:59
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HFP...valid observations.

Absolutely Fabulous...
The facts are the facts and speak for themselves. That's why the FAA has now mandated minimum experience levels to operate commercial airliners. This was legislated in response to experience levels noted as a factor in recent accident statistics. This is self evident and not something malleable.

It has nothing to do with standards of creeping excellence between generations. In fact, creeping excellence works in the opposite direction now seen in aviation, each generation usually demands more experience (excellence) not less.

Last edited by raven11; 24th Jul 2013 at 03:27.
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Old 24th Jul 2013, 03:24
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3 unassisted landing and there're off.

Yes, they have calculated the 'risk' and decided its one worth taking. The thinking is: What are the chances of making an Aeroplane shape hole in the ground anyway?.
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Old 24th Jul 2013, 03:27
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Ab Fab: there has been no mention of one generation vs another in any response. A simple statement of facts about training systems and protocols at airlines and how they have degenerated into the farce that compels guys like the Capt mentioned above to speak out, as well as those (like me) critical of the CX chase-for-profit-at-any-cost.

Where experience lacks training must always replace it. That is no longer the case due the profit hunt. And if not the profit hunt then it's due pure incompetence: knowingly and deliberately so as this article suggests.

And in the case of HKA it seems they are unwilling, unable and completely incompetent to raise their standards.....as supported by the CAD.
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Old 24th Jul 2013, 03:27
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Call Me Ishmael,

So you are saying nothing is true what this former captain said??? HKA is perfect...no safety issues, engineering issues and high (English speaking) standards in the sim???

Not what I have heard...keep living in denial...
AQIS Boigu is offline  
Old 24th Jul 2013, 04:07
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Ishmael..you have to be joking or are you just a real plonker ? The documented facts of HKA excursions from NOP, SOP's etc are profound and CA wasn't the only guy trying to solve the problems at your mob....330's flying multiple sectors with reversers locked out but not annotated in the Tech log and no allowance given for performance..take offs from taxi ways..no fuel checks in cruise..poor sim performances..nepotism..the singapore mafia..again!!..the major corporate screw up with the LGW biz sectors. But I guess all is well since our wonderful CAD have a small pocket attached to the senior executive..wonder why the ICAC didn't sniff around a little more too...?
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Old 24th Jul 2013, 06:04
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I think the international press may be catching on.....

The perils of autopilot | National Post

How many canneries must chirp before the industry recognizes the problem and acts, as have the FAA, to address this problem?

Last edited by raven11; 24th Jul 2013 at 06:16.
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Old 24th Jul 2013, 15:09
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As a former 330 Capt at HKA I can only thank CA for the steps he has taken. Like him I too went off to pastures but still in touch via friends and colleagues I worked with at HKA and other airlines. I know for a fact that this was never meant to go to the press but out of frustration and exhausting other required avenues this was the only way to get the issues the attention they needed. Prior to any of this all necessary steps were taken via official airline policies, only to see them brushed aside and ignored by our incompetent and nepotistic DFO. Get an airline up and running and to hell with the standards was his response. He then went to the CAD only to be told that they are not interested.

So after the airline deliberately ignored all protocols from a senior TRE to act on formal complaints as well as the CAD CA did what his conscious deemed necessary in order to bring this disgrace to light. A last resort. Unlike the misguided post above, these actions were begun at least 6 months before CA resigned. HKA and the CAD were made well aware of CA's intentions and how he would act should they continue to ignore the facts and evidence.

When a senior TRE gives first hand witness to these matters and the airline as well as CAD does nothing then the disgrace and corruption speaks for itself. For speaking up to the DFO CA had his TRE status removed.

Pilots are regularly failed in the sim during their PC only to be placed back in the sim the next day by one of the DFO's (many) yes-men to see that pilot or crew passed. How great they became over 24 hours! The immoral TRE/I's are too scared to fail a pilot for fear of reprimand from the DFO for doing so. And what's the point if they do? The pilot is only released back to line by another TRE/I very soon after. What's more the yearly bonus payment is affected if deemed by the DFO you do not show enough "loyalty" as he sees it.

(Apparently a Capt failed his PC only last week but the paperwork was changed in the office to reflect a pass by the head yes man, called GMO I think. PS: there is no GMO position in the OM-A or AOC but he has the title and of course is paid handsomely as such).

Certain TRI/TRE's have, at best, questionable credentials. A quick trip to TPE and visit to a spa and the head HKA TRE ("GMO") yes man asks you sign a certificate and like magic you are now a TRI. No course or sims required.

The DFO's favorite child has had his career nursed and fast tracked whereas he barely has the hours to apply for DEFO at most other airlines. But he was appointed Deputy Training Manager. He went to PEK to get TRE certification only to return to HK and fail his TRE upgrade sim - twice I believe. He was always a laughing stock and the brunt of all jokes regarding HKA's "training standards". The TRE who failed him was then duly stood down.

HKA operate with Capts and FOs who have zero idea due the anyone walking through the door recruitment style, plus zero training and standards that are a disgrace once they are employed. HKA pilots are regularly seen at the CAE sim center in jeans, trainers and t-shirt for their PC and RT. No need to panic as they are better dressed than the TRE/I anyway. Back at my previous airlines that would have you sent home with a warning letter. Most already have the instructor notes and tech exam on their iPads anyway. Colleagues of the same nationality as each other have a network whereby the leader is very senior in the fleet.

DEC's hired and given 4 line training flights before being checked to line. Career FO's at CX were offered commands above all others by way of seniority or date of joining in an attempt to lure more locals from CX. That's right, HKA take CX's "never to be promoted" and fast track them to a command. One criteria for command upgrade is to have a clean record, ie no paperwork against you and good RT and PC sims. One of these former CX guys definitely did have paperwork against him. Other Captains have told me that they felt compelled to write a report following incidents on flights. Where is it? Disappeared, obviously. Other clueless FO's work long hours in the office on their day off to be seen to kiss ar$e and gain a command that way. And it works. They are encouraged to report on other pilots - the Singaporean way of doing business. They come in and pull apart the Voyage Report envelops prior to a CAD inspection and edit where needed. They'll get your coffee for you as well. FO's must get there early though as there could be a line up.

The newspaper article writes HKA operate 28 aircraft? Really? So the CAD has removed the restriction placed upon the airline due it's embarrassing safety department? Last I was told by a buddy in the office the CAD has held their ground to only permit them 25 aircraft at best. With one incompetent yes man kicked out of the CSD by the COO another has jumped in to fill the space.

The new COO finally arrived but the in-fighting has only intensified I'm told. Yelling matches at meetings is the norm. As mentioned the DFO & friends tried to block his appointment for over 6 months. The different departments simply violently hate each other. The COO is handcuffed by CAD restrictions and not able to remove these fools as to do so would "destabilize" the airline. But what will he bring? a rebranded CAL? The GMF has recently resigned from the position as he simply cannot work under this regime in that capacity any longer.

Training Department? More like a Treasury Department. Senior TRE/I's managed to fly 95 hours a month while the rest were averaging 35. They get something like 6:1 or 8:1 pay when acting in a training or checking role. All of a sudden a pilot could not be checked to line without doing a Gatwick flight.

How many Fleet Managers, GMF's, Standards Managers and Heads of CSD has this airline had within 5 years? Too many to count. How many years did HKA operate without ETOPS or LVO? Simply because they were so incredibly incompetent in their standards to be granted permission to operate as such (another good thing the CAD did). The fact that HKA now does is worrying.

Even when I left they tried to drag my name down as I spoke out about these things. They sent emails to my new employer to rubbish my name.

If CA's whistle blowing casts doubt over the airline and every one of its pilots then GREAT. Only the guilty ones need be worried.
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