• Airline seeks list of such aviators from regulator
• Palpa calls for accountability of flag carrier management
• IATA expresses concern over reported licensing lapse
RAWALPINDI: The credibility of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has taken a massive hit after the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Thursday expressed concern over the ‘serious lapse in the licensing and safety oversight by the aviation regulator’.
Amid the aviation crisis, the PIA management decided to ground 150 (one-third of its) pilots and started relieving them from flight rosters for allegedly possessing ‘dubious licences’, while asking the CAA to urgently provide the list of all those PIA pilots who allegedly had fake/suspicious commercial pilot licences.
The controversy drew global attention after the federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan in the National Assembly declared that 150 pilots of the national flag carrier had fake licences.
Sources said the PIA management had not officially received the list of those pilots having ‘dubious licences’ from the CAA, but decided not to allow such pilots to operate flights and initiated departmental action against them. A show-cause notice had been earlier sent to the general secretary of Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (Palpa) for allegedly instigating pilots to go on strike.
PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez told Dawn that it had already been announced that about 150 pilots would be grounded. Despite the number of such pilots and its adverse impact on PIA’s flight operations, all of them would be indefinitely grounded pending outcome of inquiries against them, constituted by the government of Pakistan, he said.
PIA Chief Executive Officer Air Marshal Arshad Malik on Thursday wrote another letter to the director general of the Civil Aviation Authority and a letter to the aviation division secretary asking them to urgently provide the list of all those PIA pilots having fake/suspicious licences.
Air Marshal Malik said the provision of lists of commercial pilots having fake or suspicious licences would enable the management to issue instruction for immediate action within rules and regulations in vogue.
Palpa seeks management accountability
The show-cause notice issued to Palpa General Secretary Imran K. Narejo said: “You are called upon to show cause within seven days of receipt of this notice as to why disciplinary action in accordance with the company rules should not be taken against you.”
The Palpa general secretary has been directed to submit reply to the show-cause notice by June 30.
While welcoming the actions being taken against recruitment in PIA on bogus and fake degrees, Palpa demanded that the same criteria must also be applied to the management positions whereby officers were recruited with fake or irrelevant degrees having no experience of commercial aviation.
Spokesperson of Palpa said the association demanded across the board action and that scrutiny must be done against all those who were recruited using unfair means on key management posts.
The spokesperson said this would end the nepotism culture and help in the development of the airline. This is a welcome development but show-cause notices should also be issued to officers holding administrative posts who do not meet the criteria for their posts.
Notices termed vindictive
He said the campaign against pilots for fake degrees and flying licences was actually undertaken to victimise those having disagreement with incumbent management most of which did not have relevant commercial aviation experience.
Furthermore the recent show cause notices were not only vindictive but also baseless; a pilot was issued a show cause notice for posting comments on Facebook.
“This unprofessional and victimising attitude shows the mindset of current management which is bent upon creating an environment of fear,” he said, adding that this attitude was often referred as a cause behind mental fatigue for operating cockpit crew in the international aviation industry.
He said measures should not create an environment indicating that the management was taking unilateral and unjustified steps. Instead the government must play its part in eliminating the causes of PIA’s demise and employees’ frustration, he added.
Similarly, such actions should also be taken against the officers who were involved in financial irregularities and corruption in PIA.
“Despite the airline’s dilapidated financial condition, some officers are receiving unjustified, illegal increases in form of double salaries and allowances and we demand steps should also be taken against them,” he added.
Moreover, the management should serve show-cause notice to those who made fraudulent deals and contracts which were damaging the airline.
He said the aviation minister’s claim had put the PIA and CAA credibility at stake, as the vibes from international media had made the national flag carrier a laughing stock. “Comments in international media regarding PIA having fake licence holder pilots are not only shameful for the airline but for the country as well,” he added.
He said the letter sent to CAA DG by the PIA CEO seeking details and lists of those 150 pilots mentioned by the minister in the assembly was evidence that the whole narrative was not only baseless but also causing severe repercussions for the airline’s credibility worldwide.
He said a pilot’s licence was not like car driving licence, which could be forged easily without being counter-checked.
The only issuing authority for a pilot’s licence was the CCA and no other organisation had any control or say in the process, he said. All prospective employees must obtain these licences from the CAA before being considered, which were issued under the authority of director general with a validity of six months only, he added.
“It is a serious allegation that around 150 PIA pilots have been flying aircrafts with fake/invalid licences which is apparently a big question mark on the CAA and PIA, both of which are being run by persons on deputation from other government entities, having no knowledge or experience of Civil Aviation,” said the spokesman.
“This shows the seriousness of the government towards flight and passenger safety,” he added.
He appealed to the government to not sweep the issue under the carpet by taking action only against the persons holding fake degrees or licenses and also hold accountable their facilitators.
Meanwhile, the IATA said irregularities found in pilot licences at PIA represented a “serious lapse” in safety controls, adds Reuters.
“We are following reports from Pakistan regarding fake pilot licences, which are concerning and represent a serious lapse in the licensing and safety oversight by the aviation regulator,” an IATA spokesman said, adding that the organisation was seeking more information.
Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2020