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Maltese pilot objects to dismissal after near air miss

A pilot who lost his job after he was banned from flying over Libya after a near air miss with two planes one of them believed to have been carrying Muammar Gaddafi filed a judicial protest against Transport Malta for failing to launch an inquiry into the incident.

Sinclair Portelli is insisting the incident was caused by the abrupt take-off of the two Afriqiyah Airways planes.

In the protest, filed in the First Hall of the Civil Court, Capt. Portelli explained he had worked as a pilot with aviation company Medavia for several years. He flew a Maltese-registered plane that transported workers and cargo to various parts of Libya. On March 9, 2009, he was operating a routine flight over Mabruk when, suddenly, two Airbus planes came out of nowhere. The planes ended up at an unsafe distance from the Medavia plane Capt. Portelli was flying.

When he landed in Libya he was questioned by security officers and eventually banned from flying over the country.

However, he added, Medavia’s investigations showed he had flown the usual route and it was the sudden take-off of the two Airbus jetliners that caused the potentially dangerous incident.

Medavia continued paying Capt. Portelli but, last February, the company informed him in writing that all attempts to solve the situation with Libya had failed and he was being dismissed as from March. The reason for the termination of his employment was classified as a force majeure, because there were “clear indications” Col Gaddafi was on one of the Airbus planes.

Capt. Portelli objected to the fact that the Libyan authorities had banned him from flying over the country for no reason and without carrying out an investigation into the incident. He wrote to the Transport Malta, asking whether they had investigated the incident since a Maltese-registered plane had been involved. However, he was not informed whether such an inquiry had taken place and what the outcome was.

Capt. Portelli held the authority liable in any damages he suffered for failing to carry out an inquiry and, if one was held, he requested that the conclusion be passed onto him within 10 days.

Lawyer David Gatt signed the protest.

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