EU Suspends PIA Over Fake Licenses Scandal

  • EASA told PIA "it is still not sure" if all the remaining pilots are properly qualified.
  • Ghulam Sarwar Khan said that reforms aimed at reshaping PIA will be completed by end of the year.
  • PIA in a statement said that it will temporarily halt all its flights to Europe.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has suspended its authorization for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to fly to Europe for the next six months, beginning July 1. It is the latest fallout over the fake pilots’ licenses scandal. EASA said it has lost confidence in the airline.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is an agency of the European Union (EU) with responsibility for civil aviation safety. It carries out certification, regulation and standardisation and also performs investigation and monitoring.

EASA said the suspension was “due to concerns about the capability of competent authorities to ensure that Pakistani air operators are in compliance with applicable international standards at all times.” The country’s Aviation Minister, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, said that reforms aimed at reshaping PIA will be completed by end of the year. Khan added that the reforms were unavoidable.

PIA in a statement said that it will temporarily halt all its flights to Europe. The move comes just a few days after PIA grounded 150 pilots after questions over the authenticity of their licenses emerged. The suspension came just a day after an initial investigation into last month’s plane crash that claimed 98 lives in the southern part of the country. Human error was found to be responsible for the crash.

“It will totally cripple us,” said PIA’s spokesperson, Abdullah Hafeez. “But we cannot take risks with this.” He told The Associated Press, “we will make it sure that such unqualified pilots never fly aircraft again.”

Investigations into allegations that some of the pilots did not personally sit for their examinations, but rather paid others to take the exams, are currently ongoing. Following the news on fake pilots, the International Air Transport Association said it was keen on the developments from the country, “regarding fake pilot licenses, which are concerning and represent a serious lapse in the licensing and safety oversight by the aviation regulator.”

The minister of Pakistan Aviation, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, had on Wednesday said that 262 of the country’s active licensed pilots have suspect licenses. The minister made the revelation when presenting the findings into the May 22 plane crash to parliament.

Pakistan International Airlines Flight 8303 was a scheduled domestic flight from Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore to Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. On 22 May 2020, the Airbus A320 crashed in a densely populated residential area of Karachi named Model Colony.

Minister Khan said that when making the first landing attempt, the pilot did not pay attention to the warning from the control tower that said that the plane was too high to land. The plane crashed on its second attempt to land, and the pilot had also been warned a number of times that the plane was too low to land, but he did not heed to the warnings.

The investigators found out that the air control failed to warn the pilots about the damage caused by their first attempted landing. “The engines of the plane were damaged when they scraped the runaway but the air traffic control did not inform the pilot,” Khan said.

The PIA Airbus crashed into a residential neighborhood about 1.4 kilometers from Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. Ninety-seven people out of the 99 on board were killed. A child in one of the houses that were destroyed also died. PIA, a state owned airline is one of the largest air carriers in Pakistan.

In January, 2017, 17 pilots were suspended over the same allegations after a plane crashed in Panjgur, southwestern part of the country. The plane had 43 passengers on board when it veered off the runaway after the pilot used an unsafe approach. However, there were no injuries in the incident.

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Juliet Norah

I am a freelance journalist is passionate about news. I derive pleasure in informing people about the happenings in the world

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