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Why everyone’s saying ‘No’ to Pakistan pilots

Pakistan grounds 262 pilots, including 141 from national carrier PIA, for possessing fake license, dubious credentials

By: Updated June 27, 2020 22:16 IST

Pilots getting grounded for reporting drunk on duty, rough landing and overshooting the runway is normal. But as many as 262 commercial pilots getting suspended for carrying bogus licenses and holding fake educational qualifications is not. Pakistan’s Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said yesterday that 262 commercial pilots, including 141 from national flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), have “dubious credentials” and will not be allowed to fly.

The list, which the Minister said has been put up on the Civil Aviation Authority’s website, also includes nine pilots from Air Blue, 10 from Serene Air and the rest from flying clubs, chartered plane services and foreign airlines. Pakistan has a total of 860 active pilots.

The initial findings—part of the preliminary investigation report submitted by the Minister to Parliament on the May 22 PIA plane crash in Karachi which claimed 97 lives—have shocked not just the frequent travellers but also the aviation community all over the world.

PIA, which had to ground a third of its pilots, issued a statement on taking suitable “measures” but its already-threadbare reputation is now taking a global beating from all sides.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), trade association for the world’s airlines representing some 290 airlines or 82 per cent of total air traffic, said it was concerned with the reports emerging from Pakistan.

“We are following reports from Pakistan regarding fake pilot licenses, which are concerning and represent a serious lapse in the licensing and safety oversight by the aviation regulator,” said an IATA spokesman.

Reports also emerged today that Kuwait Airways has grounded seven Pakistani pilots and 56 engineers after the emergence of fake licences issue in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Dunya News said that Oman Air and Vietnam Air have also prepared lists of Pakistani pilots, engineers and ground handling staff in their respective airlines.

Country’s leading news network Geo News also reported CNN journalist Richard Quest saying yesterday that a third of Pakistani pilots having fake licenses was the most “extraordinary” story in aviation.

“It is not prevalent elsewhere. This is the most extraordinary story in aviation. Dubious licenses. ‘Fake’ licenses—how the investigators put it in the Pakistan aircraft investigation,” Geo quoted Quest as saying.

Trouble isn’t mounting for Pakistan aviation industry just from ‘licensegate’ though.

As many as three major airlines from the Gulf—Emirates, Fly Dubai and Etihad—have temporarily suspended flight operations from Pakistani soil after many Pakistanis arriving in foreign countries, from Hong Kong to New Zealand, were tested positive for Covid-19.

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