KARACHI: Despite a lapse of over six weeks, no action has been initiated by the aviation regulator as well as by the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) against the influential pilot, Qasim Hayat, who violated air safety laws and put the lives of over 350 Toronto-bound passengers at risk, it is learnt here reliably.
According to highly placed sources, the PIA, succumbing to the pressure of the influential pilot, has put the issue which it earlier considered “sacrosanct”, on the backburner, while the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the aviation regulator, did not even bother responding to queries by Dawn about it.
The sources said that Islamabad-based pilot Mr Hayat had not taken the mandatory 24-hour rest before he operated the Toronto-bound flight PK 789 on April 7, 2015.
The mandatory rest is prescribed in the CAA’s laws so that the air crew is not tired during flight duty, as a fatigued crew can result in a disaster.
Sources said that PIA, following the 24-hour mandatory rest requirement in mind, had scheduled Mr Hayat to fly from Islamabad to Lahore on April 5, take rest at a Lahore hotel for two days, and then operate the Canada-bound flight on April 7.
Instead, Mr Hayat did not fly from Islamabad to Lahore as scheduled on April 5, and stayed back overnight and then flew to Lahore on the evening of April 6, reaching Lahore late at night, and then operated the Toronto-bound flight early on April 7, after hardly taking seven to eight hours rest.
Sources added that out-of-station crew members of the flight operated by Mr Hayat be also included in an inquiry as to why they did not raise objections knowing that the pilot had not taken the mandatory rest; the crew had also taken rest in the same hotel.
The names of the crew members, as filled in the list by pilot Mr Hayat are: pilots Anwar, Navid and Zain. Cabin crew included Anwer Sultana, Syed Kashif, Uzma Furqan, Sheema Khan, Saima Arshad, Asim Soomro, Aamir Niaz, Sana Aziz, Qudsia Hassan, Samreen, Kanchan, Anila Iftikhar, Ambar Hasan and Yawar Shehzad.
Previously responding to Dawn, PIA spokesperson Aamir Memon had said that “your query highlights the concern PIA considers sacrosanct. We are verifying the matter in all areas of airline operations and will conduct a thorough inquiry and take appropriate action.”
However, responding to the newspaper on Sunday, a couple of weeks after the issue was highlighted in the media and around six weeks after the incident, Mr Memon said the inquiry had not even been initiated yet as Mr Hayat was on vacation.
To another question that every information — his travel to Lahore from Islamabad and then his travel to Toronto from Lahore, his stay at Lahore hotel etc — was a matter of PIA’s own record and could be verified by the airline without Mr Hayat being present, Mr Memon insisted that Hayat’s presence was necessary.
To a question by this reporter, the CAA spokesperson Pervez Geroge did not respond though he was contacted repeatedly through telephone as well as email. Mr Pervez always said that he would ask the officials concerned — in this case deputy director general as well as director of flight standards — but he never gave any reply whether the CAA had initiated an inquiry into this serious violation of air safety law committed by PIA pilot Mr Hayat.
The sources said that PIA and CAA did not take any action if the violator was an influential person, as apart from Mr Hayat, another influential PIA pilot, Amir Hashmi, who is also president of the Pakistan Air Lines Pilots Association (PALPA), had violated the same 24-hour rest law.
A few months back he flew from New York to Pakistan and in another incident flew from Lahore to Canada without taking the required duration of rest before operating these Trans-Atlantic long haul flights putting the lives of hundreds of passengers at risk.
The sources said that it was high time the federal government launched a high-level inquiry into the affairs of PIA as well as CAA to investigate why no probe by either organisations was conducted against the violators of air safety law when the issues were highlighted by the media.
Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2015