Aer Lingus fury over O'Leary's mayday claims
Flagship carrier lashes out at controversial Ryanair boss in row over pilots' distress calls
Aer Lingus has angrily denied claims by Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary that one of the national carrier's aircraft had to make a mayday landing earlier this year.
In a further twist to the controversy over Ryanair's three mayday calls in one day caused because of low fuel, Mr O'Leary was forced into an embarrassing climb-down over his claims made in a taped interview with the Sunday Independent last week-end that "these fuel emergencies are not unusual and are perfectly routine".
At a specially convened press conference for Spanish and international media in Madrid last Thursday, Mr O'Leary was forced to refute his own words. He said: "Do I think the three fuel emergencies in Valencia was normal? No, clearly I don't think three fuel emergencies in Valencia is normal."
And the president of the Irish Airline Pilots' Association (Ialpa), Captain Evan Cullen, himself targeted by Mr O'Leary in the wake of the mayday controversy, has hit back at the €1.3m-a-year Ryanair boss. Capt Cullen said that not only was Mr O'Leary contradicting the facts, he was also contradicting himself.
The Ialpa chief reiterated that a mayday is a rare and significant event and that the claim made by Mr O'Leary in his Sunday Independent interview last week that mayday calls were routine was clearly intended to distort the real significance of mayday calls.
Last week, Mr O'Leary said an Aer Lingus Airbus A320 en route from Cork to Barcelona on March 14 last also had to call mayday in very similar circumstances and this incident passed without comment.
However, this claim was not true, it has now emerged.
An Aer Lingus spokesman told the Sunday Independent: "The statement made by Michael O'Leary in the Sunday Independent of August 19 that an Aer Lingus flight from Cork to Spain on March 14 last 'had to call mayday' is totally incorrect. Due to adverse weather conditions, there was in fact what is known as a 'fuel pan' call. For clarification, a fuel pan call signifies a state of urgency, but no immediate danger, whereas a mayday call signifies a state of emergency and imminent danger."
In Madrid, Mr O'Leary admitted that one of the aircraft which landed in Valencia was left with just 28 minutes of fuel -- below the minimum level of 30 minutes.
However, that statement is at variance with claims he made in the Sunday Independent and in a number of official statements to media outlets that all three Ryanair aircraft landed in Valencia with more than 30 minutes' of reserve fuel in their tanks.
Mr O'Leary also addressed the issue of three Ryanair fuel mayday emergencies in 2010 which were also the subject of investigations, it has now emerged.
Last Thursday, he stated: "Just to go back to the fuel emergencies in 2010, just like the fuel emergencies we had in 2012, they were associated with extreme and unforecast weather conditions, they followed extended diversions to the alternates, and in all cases the aircraft landed with required fuel."
However, an internal memorandum sent to all Ryanair pilots from the airline's chief pilot, dated June 8, 2010, and seen by the Sunday Independent, which reviews the three investigations by National Aviation Authorities, confirms that in one of the three declarations of emergency for fuel by Ryanair aircraft, "the fuel on shutdown was less than final reserve fuel".