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Europe Bans Pakistan International Airlines Amid Fraudulent Pilot Licence Scandal
The European Aviation Agency (EASA) has suspended Pakistan International Airlines’s (PIA) authorization to operate in the EU for six months. As of July 1, PIA will not be allowed to operate flights in European skies at least for the rest of the year.
“EASA has temporarily suspended PIA’s authorization to operate to the EU member states for a period of 6 months effective July 1, 2020 with the right to appeal against this decision,” a Pakistan International Airlines said in a statement. “PIA will discontinue all its flights to Europe temporarily. PIA is in touch with the EASA to allay their concerns and hopes that the suspension will be revoked with our CBMs soon,” continued the airline in a statement made on Tuesday.
The move comes after 262 Pakistani pilots have been grounded following Pakistan’s minister of aviation’s sensational statement labeling their flight licenses as “dubious.”
“We will restructure the airline, and a clean-up process will be completed by this year,” the aviation minister previously said.
The EASA’s expected move seems to grant the time the aviation minister prospected to complete the investigation and restructuring process.
With this move, PIA has been added to the EU’s list of air carriers that are banned from entering the airspace of any of its member states as well as Switzerland which is landlocked by the EU countries.
EASA is the regulatory body of the EU that has the authority to ban air carriers or restrict their operations within the EU for failing to meet EU regulatory oversight standards.
Civil Aviation Authority Fraudulent Pilot License Inquiry
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has suspended its five officials to investigate their potential involvement in the dubious pilot licenses. The CAA’s director of pilot certification department and a human resources official are accused of permitting pilots to cheat in the exams or to have others sit in their place.
“The Competent Authority has ordered to suspend you till further orders consequent upon establishing your involvement in Board of Inquiry conducted to investigate the violation, malpractices in conduct, issuance of Flight Crew Licences,” said the CAA in the suspension order.
The fraudulent pilot license inquiry was first initiated when a PIA ATR-22 aircraft skidded off the runway in the southwest of Pakistan last summer. It later come out that the license of the regional jet’s pilot had been issued on a public holiday. Subsequent investigations revealed that 17 Pakistani pilots had fraudulent licenses. The CAA suspended licenses of all these pilots in 2019.
After last month’s A320 crash in the southern port city of Karachi, the scandal’s focus is no longer limited to a small number of pilots. Pakistan aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan announced that the 262 grounded pilots included 141 from flag carrier PIA, nine from Air Blue, 10 from Serene Airline and 17 from now-defunct Shaheen Airlines.
The aviation minister’s revelation has lit the touchpaper of global reactions, raising doubts over how the Pakistani pilots are certified to operate commercial flights across the world.
Vietnam’s civil aviation authority also grounded all Pakistani pilots flying for Vietnamese airlines in the wake of the license scandal and preliminary report of the PIA A320 crash that killed 97 people on May 22 in Karachi, Pakistan.
According to the report, the flight crew did not follow the procedures and failed to extend its landing gear, leading to a gear-up landing and initiated a go-around with damaged engines. The aircraft lost both engines during the second approach resulting in a catastrophic accident.
It is doubtful that PIA and the CAA will be able to make the promised reforms in terms of safety and credibility in six months. EASE’s move will be highly likely followed by the FAA and other aviation regulators.
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