Pilot group condemns Ryanair for sacking pilot who appeared in documentary

Airline accused of shooting messenger and trying to ‘suppress discussion’ over safety

Ryanair plans to initiate a defamation case against Channel 4 over the Dispatches documentary. Photograph: Chris Radburn/PA

Ryanair plans to initiate a defamation case against Channel 4 over the Dispatches documentary. Photograph: Chris Radburn/PA

Fri, Aug 16, 2013, 01:00


Ryanair has been accused of trying to “suppress discussion” about airline safety after it sacked one of its longest serving pilots for raising concerns about its fuel load policy.

Captain John Goss, who has been with the airline for 26 years, was dismissed for “gross misconduct” with immediate effect on Wednesday after he appeared in a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary.

The programme criticised several aspects of Ryanair’s safety protocols and alleged the airline’s pilots were being put under pressure to fly with minimum fuel loads, which posed serious safety risks.

The carrier strongly refutes the claims and insists it has never breached the regulations concerning how much spare fuel airlines should carry, an assertion which is supported by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA).

Capt Goss, who had been due to retire in October, was the only pilot to be identified in the programme.

Ryanair said it had instructed its lawyers to issue legal proceedings against Capt Goss as a result of what it called his “defamatory contributions” to the programme.

The airline also claimed Capt Goss’s contribution contradicted two prior statements in which he said he had “no concerns” about Ryanair’s safety.

A spokesman said: “Ryanair’s safety has been independently confirmed as being ‘on a par with the safest airlines in Europe’.

“We will not allow a Ryanair employee to defame our safety on national television just three weeks after he confirmed in writing to Ryanair that he had no concerns with safety and no reason to make any confidential safety report to either the IAA or Ryanair.”

Defamation case
The airline also plans to initiate a defamation case against Channel 4 over the documentary.

Yesterday the Ryanair Pilot Group (RPG), which claims to represent more than half of the carrier’s pilots, condemned the airline’s actions.

During his 26 years at Ryanair, Capt Goss acted as a flight safety officer and his record was “blemish free”, it said.

“It is simply extraordinary that the immediate reaction of Ryanair to safety issues brought to their attention is to deny the existence of any problems and to effectively shoot the messenger,” RPG chairman, Evert van Zwol said.

“Safety experts are agreed that a sound safety culture is based on pilots having faith in a non-punitive approach and dealing directly and transparently with all concerns raised.”

Ryanair’s approach was apparently to suppress discussion, he said.

The Dispatches programme featured a survey of more than 1,000 Ryanair pilots, most of whom expressed misgivings about safety at the airline.

“Is it any surprise that over 1,000 Ryanair pilots have indicated in a safety attitude survey that they are reluctant and fearful of making safety reports through internal or external channels? ” Mr van Zwol said.

Capt Goss, who could not be contacted yesterday, is understood to be considering his legal position.

French minister for transport Frédéric Cuvillier said he was concerned if Ryanair pilots felt inhibited in raising safety concerns with the airline.