KARACHI: A pilot who was involved in the crash of a small aeroplane at Karachi airport last year has been recruited by the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to fly bigger aircraft, according to sources.

The airline has acquired the pilot’s services even though the inquiry launched to determine the cause of the crash is still under way.

The sources described the PIA management’s decision to recruit a pilot with an “imperfect” record as a “brave” one, particularly after an ATR aircraft of the airline crashed near Havelian not too long ago. All those aboard that aircraft had died in the crash.

According to the sources, the role of the Safety Investigation Board (SIB), which allowed the pilot to resume flying after undergoing some training, is also questionable. The SIB’s job is to find the cause and fix responsibility for any crash or accident.

The regulator of the aviation sector, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), simply allowed the influential pilot to resume flying after it received a clearance letter from the SIB, said the sources.

In response to Dawn’s queries, PIA’s spokesperson Danyal Gilani confirmed that the pilot had been recruited on contract. However, the spokesperson for the CAA, despite repeated requests, did not respond.

The sources said that Muzammil Hussain Khan (ATPL No 1188), with 21 officials of the Pakistan Petroleum Ltd aboard a small chartered aircraft — a Beechcraft 1900 — took off from the Jinnah International Airport, Karachi, on March 18 last year. When the aircraft was only about 200 feet in the air, it fell to the ground, on the airport premises.

Luckily, there was no fatality. Most of those aboard suffered minor injuries, but some of them, including the pilot, were injured seriously.

The sources said the CAA immediately ordered an inquiry into the crash, which is still being conducted by the SIB. So the reason of the crash has not yet been determined.

The sources said the SIB, however, allowed the crew to resume flying after some training.

SIB president Air Commodore Mohammad Munir Butt wrote a letter to the CAA, which said: “The detailed investigation to find out the root cause of the occurrence [air crash] is still in progress…. Following training is recommended for the captain and first officer in order to release them for routine flight operations….”

Nine days after getting the SIB letter, CAA’s additional director Capt Khalid Mehmood wrote a letter to the ASSL, saying the captain, first officer and crew of the small aircraft could resume flight operations, after attending some training sessions.

With the two letters in his pocket, Mr Khan applied to the PIA which hired him to operate an ATR aircraft and sent him abroad for training.

The sources said that even before the crash landing at the Karachi airport, Mr Khan’s record as a pilot was far from perfect. Citing an example, they said that after one of the tests taken by the pilot, the examiner had proposed 100 hours of monitored flying, besides improvements in other training segments.

Published in Dawn January 29th, 2017

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