- The minister said the officials are likely to face criminal charges.
- The move comes just a day after 150 pilots were suspended by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).
- Pilot error was found to be the cause of PK8303 crash.
At least five officers implicated in the fake pilots licenses scandal have been fired by Pakistan’s aviation authorities. The sacked officials are said to have held senior positions at the Civil Aviation Authorities, according to Ghulam Sarwar Khan, the country’s aviation minister.
The minister said the officials are likely to face criminal charges. The private airline companies have also been cautioned not to allow pilots with fake licenses to fly the planes. The move comes just a day after 150 pilots were suspended by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).
The suspension was reached after questions over the authenticity of their licenses emerged. “Out of our 434 pilots, 150 will be grounded as of today,” PIA spokesman Abdullah Khan told Al Jazeera. “It will totally cripple us. But we cannot take risks with this.”
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.
The minister of Pakistan Aviation, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, had on Wednesday said that out of the 262 active licensed pilots that have suspect licenses, 141 worked for the state-owned PIA. Khan said the pilots would not be allowed to fly any plane, adding that the government was keen on ensuring the safety of the passengers.
The former head of Pakistan Flight Engineers National Association, Malik Tariq Ali, blamed the Civil Aviation Authority for the dubious exams, adding that the regulator has suffered political interference and corruption. “The problem here is with the CAA, the licensing authority. They need to set their house in order too,” Ali said. The Chief Justice, Gulzar Ahmed, said that putting passengers’ lives in danger is criminal.
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.”
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.
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.