Fly540 founder and CEO Don Smith has been accused of mistreating pilots to the extend of withholding their salaries for months.
According to a former pilot who reached out to Kahawa Tungu, Mr Smith possesses a don’t care attitude and any pilot who tries to ask for his/her dues is shown the door since he (Smith) believes he is untouchable.
Some of the pilots go for even up to eight months without pay. For instance, the former pilot who contacted us, Mr Francis (not his real name), says that he went for eight months without pay and whenever he asked for his pay he was threatened that he would be sacked since there were “so many people willing to take his position for a lesser pay”.
“Stop pushing. I have a lot of guys who will do your job foc to build hours (sic). As we have not paid anything, do you want 30 days notice so you can get a new job?” Mr Smith told Mr Francis in some message we have sampled.
Sources within the organisation claim that the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) and the Ministry of Labour are aware of the situation but are reluctant to take action.
“I haven’t been paid since last year November. It is totally unfair and very illegal as per KCAA and ICAO regulations to have pilots fly under this amount of stress as others have been auctioned and families destroyed. This is a recipe for disaster,” says one of the pilots.
Kahawa Tungu exclusively obtained letters by the Department of Labour summoning Mr Smith, but we are reliably informed that he did not honour the summons since he feels ‘connected’ and ‘untouchable’.
Sources from within indicate that the issue does not affect the pilots. The maintenance engineers are said to be a demoralized lot since the management does not provide required spare parts.
This, they say has contributed to accidents in the past since the planes are not in good condition, posing a threat to those who use them.
For instance, our source intimates that in the Fly Sax accident that happened in 2018, navigation aids and weather radar were not working a fact that was known internally but hidden to avoid damage and reputation to the company.
“Another crash was one that happened this year in February involving a fly 540 aircraft registration 5Y-CGH. I personally flew that plane and the number 2 engine(right side engine) had a major and very serious issues which we raised and some of us refused to fly it. It failed in Turkana and caused the crash.The engine had surpassed its hours for overhaul and the management went as far as forging techlogs to show it was changed but in reality it was never changed,” intimates another pilot.
According to an insider, the issue has been in existence even before the outbreak of Covid-19, which has been used as an excuse by many companies for misdeeds.
“The planes are very poorly maintained and the engineering department that oversees maintenance are not provided with parts and are very demoralized as they are not paid. This is a very huge and dangerous issue. It’s just a matter of time. Note that this has been happening way before Corona,” says an inside source.
On August 6, 2020, Smith and Fly540 were taken to court for failing to pay one of the pilots, after failing to honour summons by the Department of Labour on June 23, 2020.
Smith and the company were given 21 days to file a response, and Kahawa Tungu could not independently verify whether the two complied with the court directive.