TO become an airline pilot or aircraft maintenance engineer one has to put in years of hard work doing courses, apprenticeships, and basic and type courses. Cutting corners is a practice frowned upon in aviation, but it does happen.
That being said, the multitude of checks and balances and standard operating procedures make civil aviation a most safe business.
In most airlines, it is the chief sector pilots who are entrusted with the job of assigning the duties of pilots and co-pilots. The chief sector pilot knows the abilities of his pilots and co-pilots. He grades them average, above average and below average. Thus he will pair an above average captain with a below average co-pilot and vice versa. The above average co-pilot will take care of a below-average captain.
When a below average pilot and the co-pilot are together, anything can happen. The PIA flight which crashed at Karachi must have suffered similar circumstances.
The pilot and co-pilot were busy in reducing airspeed and lining up the aircraft for landing. The landing gear warning bell rang, which has a nasty sound. They cancelled the bell, forgot to extend landing gears and landed. When both engines touched the runway, they took off again — a natural reaction as they were not prepared for a belly landing. This damaged both the engines and the result was the plane crashed.
However, the worst damage was done to the country’s civil aviation industry by no less than the federal government when a federal minister declared that scores of fake pilots were operating in the airline industry. Immense harm has been done by this thoughtless statement.
Henceforth no foreign airline will hire Pakistani pilots and engineers, and those working in airlines around the world will be coming home soon.
Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2020