Pakistani pilots punished for ‘fake licenses’

Pakistan International Airlines planeImage copyright


About 150 PIA pilots have been punished with immediate effect, the company said.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has punished 150 pilots for claims that they cannot have a valid license.

Pakistan’s aviation minister told parliament on Wednesday that a large number of commercial pilots have fake licenses or cheated on exams.

It comes as an initial report on a PIA accident that killed 97 people last month and found that the cause was human error by the pilot and air traffic control.

Pakistan has a checkered aviation safety record with a number of accidents.

Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan shared the findings of an initial report on the May accident on Wednesday, but also referred to a larger government investigation, which had been launched after a different accident.

After the 2018 accident, the date of the test on the pilot’s license was found to be a holiday, suggesting that the test may not have taken place on that day.

Khan said investigations had found that more than 260 of the country’s 860 active pilots had fake licenses or had cheated on their exams.

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A PIA spokesperson confirmed to the AFP news agency that the investigation found that about 150 of its 434 pilots had “false or suspicious licenses.”

“We have decided to ground those 150 pilots with false licenses with immediate effect,” he said.

As a result, some flights may be canceled, the airline said.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the irregularities found in the airline’s pilot licenses represent a “serious lapse” in security controls.

Little known about PIA pilots research

by Ilyas Khan, BBC News, Pakistan

Pakistani aviation authorities have been investigating allegations of false PIA pilots’ qualifications since 2018, but not much is known about it.

Since 1965, PIA has suffered 10 major accidents and several minor incidents. Queries have been made but do not appear to have led to any improvement.

Many say that the airline, which once played a major role in launching one of the main Middle Eastern airlines, Emirates, has followed the same path to institutional decline as the rest of the country.

Over the years, both the PIA and the Civil Aviation Authority have been dominated by serving or retired officers from the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), prompting some to call it the military’s retirement home.

The patronage policy has also led to large-scale recruits, making it one of the most staffed airlines in the world.

In recent years, there have been frequent allegations of drug trafficking and smuggling involving PIA staff, but in most cases there have been no visible retaliations.

Many feel that the sole blame for individual error or false educational titles will only help to keep the doors closed to transparency and prevent further exposure of the vested interests that have brought PIA to where it is today.

On Wednesday, the aviation minister also elaborated on the preliminary report on a PIA plane crash on May 22. Flight PK8303 fell on houses in Karachi. Only two passengers survived.

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Media captionThe accident occurred in the Model Colony residential area

What were the findings? in the recent shock?

On Wednesday, Khan told parliament that the pilot and air traffic control did not follow protocol. The pilots were distracted, talking about coronaviruses with each other since their two families had been affected by the virus.

He said there was nothing wrong with the Airbus A320 plane, which had taken off from Lahore and was trying to land in Karachi.

Khan said the pilot was initially unable to deploy the landing gear properly, prompting the plane to scrape the runway before taking off again. When the plane was about to make a second landing, air traffic controllers did not tell the pilot that the plane’s engines had been badly damaged.

“When the control tower asked him to increase the height of the plane, the pilot said, ‘I will manage.’ There was too much confidence,” said Khan.

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The plane fell into houses in Karachi last month.

He said a full report on the crash would be published within a year and will include details of a recording taken during the descent.

Khan also promised that PIA, a state airline, would be restructured and promised that action would be taken against the rebel pilots.

What happened on board?

The alleged audio of the conversation between air traffic control and a pilot for the second attempt was released shortly after the accident by the Pakistani media, in which the pilot is heard saying that the plane has “lost engines.”

An air traffic controller asks if he is going to make a “belly landing”, to which the pilot responds “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday”, the final communication from the plane.

Muhammad Zubair, one of the two surviving passengers, said there was 10-15 minutes between the first landing attempt and the accident. “No one knew that the plane was about to crash; they were flying the plane without problems,” he said.

He remembered how he passed out during the sudden descent, then woke up smoking and screaming. He managed to escape by walking into the light and jumping about 10 feet (3 m) to safety.