PIA grounds 141 pilots for using ‘dubious licenses’, says spokesperson

KARACHI: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has grounded 141 pilots it found to have used unfair means in obtaining their professional licenses, a spokesman for the national flag carrier said on Saturday.

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Abdullah Khan said the aviation ministry had issued a list identifying 262 pilots with fake/suspicious licenses, which also included 10 pilots associated with Serene Air and nine with Air Blue.

In a letter to the Aviation Ministry, PIA Chief Executive Officer Air Marshal Arshad Malik said steps were being taken for the safety of flights and passengers.

The letter also mentioned that the 141 pilots grounded by PIA include 17 who were identified for their dubious credentials by the national carrier itself around a year and a half ago.

Senior office-bearers of Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (PALPA), including its spokesman Captain Qasim Qadir, were said to be among them, along with Captain Yahya Sandhila, responsible for the Panjgur incident which had triggered an inquiry into the matter.

The spokesperson further said there were lobbies bent upon disrupting the PIA’s Europe and North America operations. The PIA Chief, Khan said, had written to the ambassadors of the concerned countries reaffirming that the airline shall remain compliant with all international aviation safety and regulatory standards.

“It is also ensured that pilots flying PIA flights have genuine licenses endorsed by the Government of Pakistan and are in physical possession of the same during all domestic and international flights,” PIA CEO Malik was quoted to have emphasised.

262 pilots with ‘dubious’ credentials to be grounded: aviation minister

Aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar on Friday had announced that the credentials of 262 pilots were “dubious” and thus they will be barred from flying.

The pilots in the line of fire include 141 from PIA, nine from Air Blue and 10 from Serene Airline, said the minister.

The rest of the 262 belong to flying clubs or chartered plane services, he said. He said all the airlines and the clubs had been conveyed that: “Their credentials are dubious, and they shouldn’t be allowed to fly.”

Khan said that a total of 753 pilots are serving in Pakistani airlines, while 107 are serving in foreign airlines bringing the number to 860.

Among the pilots, 121 pilots are suspected of faking one test result — someone else gave their exam. Forty-nine are suspected of faking two, 21 of faking three, 15 of faking four, 11 of faking five, 11 of faking six, 10 of faking seven, and 34 of faking eight papers, bringing their number to 262.

“The lists of the suspected pilots have been sent to relevant authorities, including a letter and a list of 141 pilots to PIA’s chief executive, instructing him to bar these men from further flying,” said the minister.

He went on to say that nine out of 28 pilots have “confessed” during a probe, and their licenses will be cancelled after approval from the federal cabinet as the issuing authority is CAA, but the federal government is the authority on cancelling licenses.

‘Almost 40% PIA pilots have fake licenses’

Khan while presenting the preliminary report of the plane crash in the National Assembly on Thursday had said the incident in which 97 people lost their lives had happened because the pilots were not focused and their lack of concentration caused the crash.

The report held the pilots and the air traffic controller (ATC) responsible for the incident, stating that the cockpit crew did not seem focused on the job and were thinking about the coronavirus instead.

Khan had revealed that it was observed that the pilot took the call from the ATC “very hurriedly” and told the tower that he would “manage”, after being informed that the aircraft was at a dangerous height. He added that recorder showed that even after taking the call, the pilots went back to their conversations about coronavirus.

Speaking about the pilots, the aviation minister had said, “Pakistan has 860 active pilots, which includes PIA, Serene Air, Air Blue. The inquiry which was initiated in February 2019 showed that 262 pilots did not give the exam themselves and asked someone else to give it on their behalf,” the minister said, adding that the pilots did not have the proper flying experience either.

He had added that the degrees of four PIA pilots had been found to be fake.

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