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PIA Says it Will Ground Pilots with “Dubious Licences” After Minister Says 40% of Pilot Have Fake Qualifications

PIA Says it Will Ground Pilots with “Dubious Licences” After Minister Says 40% of Pilot Have Fake Qualifications

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) says it will ground “all pilots with a dubious” licence after the country’s aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan revealed that 40 per cent of Pakistani pilots are believed to hold fake qualifications. The revelation came during the release of a preliminary report into the crash of PIA flight PK8303 in Karachi on May 22, resulting in the tragic death of 97 passengers and crew, as well as one bystander on the ground.

The report laid most of the blame on pilot error, concluding that the Airbus A320 was technically fine before it crashed into a busy residential area close to  Jinnah International Airport. The report from the Civil Aviation Authority instead found that the two pilots talked for the majority of the flight from Lahore about COVID-19 and the effect the pandemic was having on their families while ignoring standard operating procedures.

On approach to Karachi airport, the Airbus A320 was still at 7500 feet when it should have been at 3500 feet. Air traffic control offered to reroute the flight so that the pilots could get to the correct height but instead they declined and lowered the landing gear. Then, at five miles out, the pilots retracted the landing gear and continued their approach despite flight deck warnings.

It wasn’t until they had attempted to land and the underside of the engines had dragged along the runway for several thousand feet that the pilots apparently realised their mistake and attempted a so-called ‘go around’. Shortly after, both engines failed due to the heavy damage they had sustained during the botched landing.

In a short Tweet acknowledging the report, PIA said it “acknowledges the AAIB report and have taken measures learning from it. An independent Flight Data Monitoring setup established to monitor and analyse all flights.”

“All pilots with dubious licences will be ground,” the Tweet continued. “Safety is more imp.(ortant) than any commercial interest.”

On Thursday, the airline said it had so far grounded 150 pilots – around a third of its 434-strong pilot workforce over the debacle. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) referred to the situation a “serious lapse” in safety oversight.

In Parliament yesterday, Khan claimed that an investigation that started in February 2019 found that 262 pilots out of 860 active pilots in the country had not sat the pilot exams themselves. Many, he claimed, did not have the proper flying experience either.

Khan also suggested that rather hiring pilots on aptitude, appointments had been made on a “political basis”.

In January 2019, the CAA suspended the licences of 16 pilots and 65 cabin crew after they were found to have fake university degrees. Several days before, PIA had dismissed 50 employees, including cabin crew and three pilots after an internal investigation found they too had got jobs with the airline by using fraudulent education certificates

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