News Item Colombo Page, 1 February 2020: “Mercy flight to Wuhan: SriLankan Airlines expresses gratitude to its courageous crew members and staff”
Feb 01, Colombo: Sri Lankan Airlines expresses its profound gratitude to its patriotic and loyal staff members who volunteered to operate Flight UL1423, the airline’s mission of mercy that brought back our students from Wuhan, China, on Saturday 1st February 2020.
The mission of mercy was carried out on the instruction of the President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Flight UL1423 landed at Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport shortly after dawn following its extremely long turnaround flight from Colombo to Wuhan and back and the students were handed over to the care of health authorities and other relevant institutions, including the armed forces, for necessary procedures.
Ashok Pathirage, Chairman, Sri Lankan Airlines, stated: “Our nation has always relied on our National Carrier during times of crisis, be it a tsunami or a terror attack, and we are proud to say that we will always do our duty no matter what the challenges that we will face.”
“The Board of Directors and indeed every employee of Sri Lankan Airlines are extremely proud of the selfless efforts of our 16 crew members who volunteered to fly into Wuhan, which is currently under a lockdown due to the deadly Coronavirus pandemic. Our pilots and cabin staff have gone far beyond the call of duty to ensure that the National Carrier has once again fulfilled its duty to our nation,” said Pathirage.
“Our thanks also to all of our support staff including the Ground Handling staff who handled the passengers of this flight in Mattala and the passengers and cargo of all flights from China on a daily basis at Bandaranaike International Airport, Commercial team, Flight Operations, Inflight Service, Medical Centre, Canton station staff, and Engineering.”
The effort was ably supported by a large number of government institutions and officials including the Presidential Secretariat, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sri Lanka Army, Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Acting Ambassador to China and Sri Lanka’s embassy in Beijing, Government of China and Embassy of China in Sri Lanka, Airport & Aviation Services, Sri Lanka Customs, Department of Immigration & Emigration, Ministry of Health and many others.
The National Carrier worked in close co-operation with the Sri Lanka Air Force which sent its Bio Medical Team to Mattala and provided SriLankan with all the equipment needed to make this mission a success.
At a special media briefing held recently in Hilton Colombo to bring forward the act of heroism by all crew members and support staff that took part in Mission Mercy, the top official said they were expecting voluntary members to join the risky mission.
“As soon as we received the order from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to send a flight to China to repatriate the trapped students, we were expecting voluntary staff members to join this mission concerning the vulnerable nature of it,” he said.
Responding to a query made by Daily Mirror as to whether the country’s national carrier was waiting for any volunteer staffer to dispatch on a flight to China despite its well-organised flight schedules with designated crews for various destinations, Captain Ranatunga said it was actually the other way round where many staff members voluntarily came forward to take part in the life-saving mission.
Chief Pilot of Mission Mercy (SriLankan Airlines flight UL1422 to Wuhan), Captain Chaminda de Zoysa said they were noT heroes to have succeeded in this rescue operation with a humble satisfaction. “We had to carefully select the team as all top crew members voluntarily came forward to accomplish this mission,” he said.
Meanwhile, SriLankan Airlines Flight Safety Manager Captain Anushke Jeewandara said no injustice had been caused to their family members in the aftermath of the mercy mission despite social media reports suggesting otherwise.
He was responding to social media reports that the family members of the crew, who volunteered to operate the airline’s mission of mercy that brought back Sri Lankan students from Wuhan, China, were faced with injustice in society.
Addressing a news briefing, he said they had also witnessed certain reports that their family members especially the children were facing inconvenience at schools.
“I should categorically mention that neither our family members nor our children are faced with any injustice,” he said.
Moreover, Captain Chaminda de Zoysa, the Chief Pilot of Flight UL1423 said they were not heroes but they just did their duTY.
“There were other pilots and crew members, who must have been willing to engage in this journey. However, in the end, it happened to us. So, we are happy with the duty we did,” de Zoysa said.
“When I said this to my wife, she asked why you are going there. Then, when I said what we would have done, if our children had been there, she gave me the permission to fly, replying to a question posed by a journalist, Captain de Zoysa said.
Meanwhile, responding to another question raised by a journalist whether it was a normal flight, Chief Officer Service Delivery Captain Rajind Ranatunga said it was a normal flight under abnormal circumstances.
“We were able to rescue 33 Sri Lankan citizens from the coronavirus epicenter in Wuhan,’ Captain Ranatunga said. “We would like to express our special thanks to the Sri Lanka Air Force for their close cooperation which sent its BioMedical Team to Mattala and provided SriLankan with all the equipment needed to make this mission a success,” he said.
“The mission of mercy was carried out on the instruction of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Flight UL1423 landed at the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport shortly after dawn following its extremely long turnaround flight from Colombo to Wuhan and back and the students were handed over to the care of health authorities and other relevant institutions, including the armed forces, for necessary procedures,” Ranatunga added.
Aircraft Technician Rumesh Pathiraja, Licensed Aircraft Engineer Lalitha Pathberiya, Chief Pilot Captain Chamindra de Zoysa, Chief Officer Service Delivery Captain Rajind Ranatunga, Flight Safety Manager Captain Anushke Jeewandara, Purser Farhaan Haniffa and Cabin Service Supervisor Jenaly Janasz, were seen at the head table of the media briefing. (Kurulu Koojana Kariyakarawana, Sheain Fernandopulle and Dinali Wijayasooriya)
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