Pakistan wrestles with pilots scandal in wake of European flight ban

Within the wake of a scandal involving Pakistani pilots, the European Union Aviation Security Company (EASA) has mentioned European international locations ought to think about suspending any pilots licensed by that nation.

This comes after it emerged a 3rd of Pakistani pilots had cheated in their exams however have been nonetheless given licenses by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA).

In a leaked letter seen by Euronews, EASA mentioned the alleged fraud was a “grave security concern” and really useful that any pilots holding validated Pakistani licenses shouldn’t be scheduled for operations.

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The recommendation was addressed to aviation authorities in EASA member nations, which incorporates all EU international locations plus Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.

Final week EASA banned Pakistan’s nationwide service, Pakistan Worldwide Airways (PIA), from flying to Europe for a minimum of six months.

Whereas PIA had not been flying to the continent as a result of of the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline had hoped to renew its flights to Oslo, Copenhagen, Paris, Barcelona and Milan inside the subsequent two months.

Origins of the scandal

The difficulty of dishonest pilots got here to gentle throughout an investigation into the Might 22 airplane crash in the southern port metropolis of Karachi, which killed 97 folks.

It led Pakistan’s aviation minister on June 24 to confess that 260 of 860 pilots in Pakistan had cheated in their pilot’s exams, however have been nonetheless given licenses by PCAA.

The PCAA has remained silent on the scandal, sparking claims it’s attempting to put low and experience out the storm.

Regardless of its function on the centre of the scandal, few have referred to as for a radical overhaul of the organisation.

‘Pretend’ or ‘doubtful’?

In a speech on June 24, Pakistan’s aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan mentioned that one-third of Pakistani pilots have pretend licenses. He added that these have been obtained both by fraud or with the assistance of dummy candidates. The determine he quoted was 262 out of 860 pilots.

Two days later he downgraded his language from ‘pretend’ to ‘doubtful’ licenses.

The Worldwide Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations (IFALPA) mentioned Khan’s speech was “on the brink of being reckless not only for the people named, however for Pakistan and its means to proceed working worldwide air companies.”

PIA ‘selected to endure’

With a authorities caught in a lose-lose scenario, and a divided cupboard, many trade watchers in Pakistan consider the authorities underestimated the implications of this debacle. Pakistan’s aviation regulator, the PCAA, can also be lacking from the controversy.

In a leaked inside message seen by Euronews, PIA’s CEO, Air Marshal Arshad Malik, insists that his organisation “selected to endure fairly than to defend and save the black sheep simply to look good to the world whereas placing so many lives at stake.”

In a letter to the airline, EASA’s govt director Patrick Ky says the company had raised six essential “findings” with PIA. The letter does not checklist what the precise findings have been, however it says that PIA managed to rectify 5 of them. Within the case of the sixth discovering, which is said to SMS (Security Administration System), the letter says the airline didn’t implement the agreed motion plan.

The cumulative impact of the Karachi crash and Ghulam Sarwar Khan’s speech on 24 June led to the suspension of the PIA’s Third Nation Operator (TCO) authorisation, which is a pre-requisite for EU states to problem working permits to international airways.

How did we get right here?

The difficulty began when Pakistani airways, particularly PIA, began inducting ex-military pilots for civil aviation.

Some of these pilots handed the statutory eight assessments with lightning velocity — one thing that startled the candidates who have been struggling to cross the assessments for months, if not years.

There are allegations that this velocity was attainable as a result of of corruption inside the PCAA.

The earlier authorities of Mian Nawaz Sharif had eliminated aviation from the management of Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence, and created a brand new division beneath a civilian minister for aviation. This minister stories on to the Prime Minister. Nonetheless, the PCAA continues to be run largely by navy officers who’re both retired or on lively responsibility.

Jack Netskar, president of IFALPA says he strongly believes that the “issues can solely be addressed successfully at this level with the participation of impartial worldwide our bodies akin to IFALPA, IATA and ICAO.”

Restructuring efforts

Malik informed Euronews that the PIA has made suggestions to Pakistan’s authorities to restructure and reform the PCAA.

“We sincerely hope that based mostly on our attraction, steps that we now have already taken and PIA’s security index, EASA will evaluate its resolution by revoking this suspension on PIA flights,” he detailed.

However with an unstable authorities, an embattled Prime Minister, and infighting between the paperwork and different stakeholders, the duty of re-establishing Pakistan’s credibility in this sector stays a problem.

Tahir Imran Mian is a Pakistani journalist with a specialism in aviation.

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