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DUBLIN, IRELAND — Irish low-cost airline Ryanair has fired one of its longest-serving pilots after he appeared on British television and questioned the airline's safety record, alleging aircraft frequently fly with the minimum of fuel and that cockpit voice recordings have disappeared after serious incidents.
The airline, the second largest in Europe with 79.3 million passengers last year, said Thursday it had instructed its lawyers to issue legal proceedings against senior pilot John Goss following his appearance on the Channel 4 program "Dispatches," which questioned Ryanair's safety record.
"Ryanair's safety has been independently confirmed as being 'on par with the safest airlines in Europe.' It is delivered on a daily basis by over 9,000 outstanding aviation professionals whose commitment to safety is absolute," an airline spokesman said, describing Goss' claims as "defamatory."
In the interview, Goss claimed Ryanair aircraft have frequently flown with the minimum allowed amount of fuel and that he had received a critical letter for using 'too much fuel.' He also said many pilots did not have confidence in the confidential safety reporting systems of the Irish authorities.
Ryanair said the claims by Goss are contradicted by his prior written confirmations on July 10 and earlier this week that he had "no concerns" about the airline's safety. As a result, Ryanair terminated the pilot's employment on Wednesday with immediate effect, the spokesman said.
"We will not allow a Ryanair employee to defame our safety on national television just 3 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 Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) or Ryanair," he explained.
The Ryanair Pilot Group (RPG), an association which campaigns for official union representation of flight crews and which is advising Goss, strongly condemned the airline for its decision to fire the pilot. Goss, who worked for Ryanair for more than 26 years as both a captain and Flight Safety Officer, was recently elected as a member of the RPG's Interim Council.
"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," said RPG Chairman Evert van Zwol. "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."
Van Zwol added: "Dismissing John further calls into question the trustworthiness and truthfulness of Ryanair management when it comes to the traditional industry norm of free discussion of safety issues in the public domain. Their chosen approach is apparently to suppress discussion, on grounds that have never been clarified."
Goss did not comment after being fired on Wednesday, but Van Zwol said the pilot's first priority is to seek legal advice on his options. "This is a particularly difficult time for John and his family. We will provide every support possible to enable John to deal with this challenging situation," he said.