Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 15 July 2020

Pakistan International Airlines to ground pilots for 'dubious' licences

Company inquiry into pilot qualifications follows deadly crash in Karachi on May 22

Pakistan International Airlines has been hit hard by the coronavirus. Reuters
Pakistan International Airlines has been hit hard by the coronavirus. Reuters

Pakistan International Airlines will ground more than one third of its 426 pilots while it investigates their qualifications, the company said on Thursday

The national carrier is looking into whether nearly 150 pilots hold "dubious" licences, company spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said.

All of the pilots under investigation would be grounded, he said.

Mr Hafeez did not provide details about the how the pilots obtained their licences but said the process to fire them had begun.

“We will make it sure that such unqualified pilots never fly aircraft again,” he told Associated Press.

The International Air Transport Association voiced concern over the revelation. "We are following reports from Pakistan regarding fake pilot licences, which are concerning and represent a serious lapse in the licensing and safety oversight by the aviation regulator," a spokesman for the global airlines body said.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said it was aware of the allegations. "We are investigating the matter but cannot comment further at this stage," a spokeswoman said.

The PIA announcement comes a day after Pakistan aviation minister highlighted irregularities at the airline while presenting an initial inquiry into a PIA plane crash on May 22.

Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan told parliament that both the pilot and the air-traffic controller were to blame for the crash of a PIA Airbus A320 in the southern city of Karachi that killed all but two of the 99 people on board.

"The pilot as well as the controller didn't follow the standard rules," Mr Khan said.

The minister said the pilot and co-pilot had been discussing the coronavirus pandemic as they attempted to land the plane and had disengaged the autopilot.

"Unfortunately the pilot was overconfident," Mr Khan said. The plane, he said, was flying at more than double the altitude it should have been when it was about to land.

Standard flight operating procedures were then ignored by the pilots and the air-traffic controller, resulting in an aborted crash landing that heavily damaged the plane's engines.

The aircraft then went down as it attempted a second landing, crashing into a residential area near the Karachi airport.

The Pakistani investigation team, which included officials from the French government and the aviation industry, analysed data and voice recorders.

The aircraft was "100 per cent fit for flying, there was no technical fault", Mr Khan said.

PIA has a fleet of 31 aircraft that fly domestic and international routes.

Updated: June 25, 2020 09:15 PM

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