- "It will totally cripple us. But we cannot take risks with this."
- Pilot error was blamed on a recent plane crash that killed 98 out of 99 people onboard.
- In January, 2017, 17 pilots were suspended over the same allegations after a plane crashed in Panjgur, southwestern part of the country.
At least 150 pilots have been 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.” He told The Associated Press, “we will make it sure that such unqualified pilots never fly aircraft again.” 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.