When I saw this article come across the wire, I assumed that it would quickly become a big story, if not globally than at least in Moldova.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, probably because if the information is true, it is just too horrible to contemplate. Frankly, it scared the hell out of me, and I’m pretty grizzled.
In the linked article, an anonymous group of Air Moldova employees wrote an open letter to the President (Igor Dodon), Prime Minister (Pavel Filip), and Speaker of the Parliament (Andrian Candu). As far as I’m aware, Air Moldova only has eight operational aircraft, but it only takes one to fall out of the sky for this to become a tragedy.
All text between the lines is my translation. I’ve lightly edited it for readability and comprehension. Anything in ((double parenthesis)) was originally written in Russian.
Open Letter – “Mayday! Air Moldova Needs Help!”
We are writing to you as employees of Air Moldova, pilots, navigators, and the ground crew, to tell you of our deep concern about what is going on at this company.
To begin, we ask for your understanding that we had to write this letter anonymously. As you can well imagine, we would be fired if our identities became known.
We are writing to you today to tell you that the situation at Air Moldova can be summed up in two words: CORRUPTION and INCOMPETENCE.
The person to blame for this is none other than the director of the company, Mr. Scorpan Iulian. We also are writing to you today because the situation over the past two weeks has become VERY SERIOUS, putting the lives and the crew of Air Moldova in extreme danger.
An 190/ER-ECB Embraer aircraft on flight 9U885 from Chisinau to Verona (Italy) on July 9, 2017, had an engine failure during the middle of the flight, a serious emergency. The engine had begun to vibrate during the flight, ultimately destroying it completely, and the results could’ve been catastrophic. Today, that aircraft is still in Verona as the company now has to find a replacement engine.
Between July 9, 2017, and today (July 18), more than 30 flights have been canceled and some 80 odd flights from other airlines were affected by this.
We believe that this situation has now reached a critical level, again, due to CORRUPTION and INCOMPETENCE from the general director, Scorpan Iulian. Below, we will outline a handful of the most serious incidents (out of hundreds) in hope that the prosecutor’s office will open a case.
Throughout the past few years, Scorpan Iulian has repeatedly changed the company that performs the aircraft servicing and repairs on the ground, intentionally reducing the number of checks performed while simultaneously artificially increasing the costs billed. This is a clear example of ((kickbacks)) and Scorpan Iulian has repeatedly been heard to brag to his closest friends about ((getting my beak wet)) in relation to this.
We believe that it is impossible to change the maintenance companies so often while still ensuring optimal safety for the aircraft. We believe that this constant shuffle of maintenance companies has placed the safety of passengers and the flight crew in jeopardy.
In Scorpan Iulian’s circle of closest friends can be counted members of the Liberal Party who have funneled party money to Scorpan Iulian via shell aircraft “maintenance” companies. Among these friends are Sula Victor, Morari Serghei, and Hincu Vasile.
For the past few years, Scorpan Iulian has engaged in behavior that we believe is criminal in nature, telling the heads of the Maintenance Department that any engineer who doesn’t sign off on a plane (certifying it is ready for flight) will be considered a saboteur.
This is a huge red flag, the results of which can be seen in the July 8, 2017, flight 9U283 from Chisinau to Paris when the Embraer 190 aircraft had an oil leak from one of its engines while at the gate. This oil leak then caught fire directly underneath the wing of the aircraft.
Because of Scorpan Iulian’s orders to the engineers, one of the most experienced and skilled heads of the department has left the company. Indeed, the same exact thing happened a year ago with another department head in charge of aircraft safety.
Throughout this time, Scorpan Iulian has engaged in other criminal and humiliating behaviors with the ground crew, including his decree that every tool, wrench, and hammer can only be removed from the tool room by a member of the security team to prevent someone from another airline helping us (do our jobs properly).
Tools can only be removed during scheduled times during the day, and as the ground crew has a very limited time to conduct checks and repairs between flights, this means that needed service cannot be performed as so much time is wasted in verifying that tools are properly checked in and out.
Not only this, but we have been subject to interrogations that are Gestapo/SS in nature. Every time we check out a tool, we need to explain why we need it and what we plan to do with it. For these reasons, we’ve lost two very experienced and professional department heads in the last year alone. Indeed, many of the specialists and experts have quit the company in recent years because of Scorpan Iulian’s corruption and incompetence.
Throughout the past year, Scorpan Iulian has created a climate of high stress and mistrust amongst all the employees of Air Moldova.
One simple example: in the spring of 2016, an experienced flight officer on an E190 returned to the airport less than two hours after taking off from Chisinau because of a problem with the engine. This was the prudent thing to do, and eventually, the plane itself had to be switched out before the flight could resume.
But instead of thanking the flight officer for putting the safety of the passengers and crew first, the four men named in this letter charged him 8,000 euros because he refused to fly the aircraft with a damaged engine. This incident caused a great deal of fear in other pilots as they now feel pressured to take off even if they think their aircraft has unresolved safety problems.
Right now, Air Moldova is operating without work contracts, using mostly Arab pilots and some Moldovan pilots who have insufficient training. But this has not stopped anything as Scorpan Iulian’s hotel in Frankfurt and his private mansion in Milan are expensive to upkeep.
Air Moldova has racked up some serious debts recently, including 50 million MDL owed to the Chisinau Airport, 10 million MDL owed to catering companies, plus other debts, including to external suppliers of aircraft maintenance, fuel, spare parts, and fees to other airports that all add up to several million euros.
Between July 3-14, 2017, Air Moldova underwent one of its most important flight safety checks, the first one in two years. On the last flight safety audit conducted by the IATA-IOSA [International Air Transport Association] in 2015, the safety audit returned no findings (that is to say, no serious problems were identified). But can you guess what this year’s audit revealed? Seven findings (serious problems), examples of which were included in this letter.
We’d like to conclude by adding that Air Moldova has purchased a Toyota Venza, an expensive vehicle that can only be used by Scorpan Iulian and his family even though the gasoline, service, and maintenance are billed to Air Moldova. This despite the fact that mechanics and members of the ground crew have never used it once as part of their job.
Dear sirs, we respectfully request that you urgently open a criminal investigation into these events before it is too late! Together, we can change things and make the situation better.
Concerning everything in this letter, we are completely and thoroughly convinced that the only place Scorpan Iulian belongs is [in jail] next to his friend Vlad Filat.
13 different departments of Air Moldova
I have nothing to add here except that about a year ago, I saw a job posting for aircraft mechanics on the Air Moldova website. That job posting has been sitting there for at least a year and is still there today.
For whatever reason, they’re definitely having trouble getting enough mechanics. I even took a peek through the Wayback Machine and found the same job posting as early as March 17, 2016.
IATA reports are unavailable to the general public, so there’s no way for me to read their findings. I can tell you, however, that Air Moldova has horrible reviews on Skytrax, one of the world’s biggest airline forums.
Here are a few samples:
Stansted to Chisinau. Rescheduled flight with no prior notice. Very poor ground team management. Flight was delayed on 12th of July from 14:40 to 21:10 without any notice provided.
Air Moldova are hiding behind ‘flight cancelled for safety reasons’ to avoid delay compensation for a faulty engine leading to a 3 day delay which requires compensation to be paid under UK law. Despite numerous emails they remain silent on this matter.
I could not recline my seat because the button fell inside the armrest. Inflight meal consisted of a cheese bun which was okay but not sufficient at all. Crew seemed surly and disinterested although this varied from flight to flight. The biggest problem is on the way back my luggage did not arrive to Moscow.
And on and on it goes.
Good lord, I truly hope something is done before people get killed. And it’s going to take a lot more than an Orthodox priest wearing a blue beach towel to fix this mess.
DO NOT FLY AIR MOLDOVA!