Pakistan grounds 150 pilots with suspected fake licences

ISLAMABAD, 25 June 2020:

Pakistan’s state airline today said it had decided to ground 150 pilots with dubious licences – a day after the aviation minister made the startling claim that 40% of the pilots in the country were flying with fake licences.

“We have decided to ground 150 pilots,” said Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez.

He said the Pakistani Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has been probing the alleged fake pilot licences issue since February 2019, which is still ongoing.

He said the licenses of these 150 pilots, out of the total 434 pilots of the airline, were doubtful. “After the investigation, if any licence is found genuine they (the pilots) may keep flying.”

The PIA announcement comes after Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan yesterday told the National Assembly that almost 40% of the 860 active commercial pilots in Pakistan have fake flying licences.

However, CAA spokesperson Mujtaba Baig today said that 262, or 30% of the total active Pakistani pilots, might be flying with fake licences,.

The PIA spokesperson said he didn’t know how such a huge number of commercial pilots could fly with fake licences.

“I don’t know how they got (the licences) but it didn’t happen overnight,” Hafeez said.

The carrier, however, acknowledged the preliminary probe report, saying it had “already taken measures learning from it”.

“An independent Flight Data Monitoring set-up established to monitor and analyze all flights. All pilots with dubious licenses will be grounded. Safety is more important than any commercial interest,” PIA tweeted today.

Minister Khan yesterday blew the lid off the dismal state of Pakistan’s aviation sector in the parliament as he shared probe findings into the last month’s plane crash that killed 98 people.

Khan said the crash was caused by human error by the pilots and the air traffic control.

He said the pilots of the PIA A-320 passenger plane that crashed in a residential area close to the airport in Karachi on May 22 had ignored warnings from air traffic controllers as they were busy “discussing coronavirus throughout the flight”.

“According to the report, the plane was 100% fit for flying. The pilot on the final approach did not identify any technical fault,” Khan insisted.

He said the plane had been flying at a lower altitude than it should have at the distances that remained from the runway, something that it was warned about three times by the ATC tower.

According to the minister, the landing gear of the aircraft also remained closed even when it should have been open.

Khan blamed ATC officials for not informing the pilots that their first landing attempt had damaged the aircraft and subsequently set fire to the engines.

Pakistan is no stranger to plane crashes and suffered one of its worst air tragedies in 2010 when 152 people died in an accident near Islamabad.

Two years later, another plane crash near the capital killed 138 people.

 – EFE