With the matter of pilots’ credentials snowballing, Malaysia's aviation regulator said it has temporarily suspended pilots employed by domestic airlines who hold Pakistani licences.
Meanwhile, Etihad Airways said it was auditing pilots with Pakistan-issued licences.
Following disclosure by federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan in parliament that 150 pilots of the Pakistan International Airline had ‘dubious’ licences, aviation authorities of different countries have sought verification of credentials of Pakistani pilots and engineers working there.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) said in a statement on Thursday that the decision came after an evaluation of all foreign pilots in Malaysia.
The regulator told Reuters that there are less than 20 Pakistani pilots in the country.
National carrier Malaysia Airlines, Malindo Air — the Malaysian arm of Indonesia's Lion Air, and AirAsia said they don't have any Pakistani pilot.
CAAM said the pilots were employed with local operators, such as flying schools, flying clubs and training organisations.
CAAM said it is making efforts with its Pakistani counterpart to verify the authenticity of the licence holders. It sought full name of the pilot, passport number, Pakistani pilot licence number, CAAM validation number (if available) and Malaysia Licence conversion – PPL/CPL/ATPL Number.
“Currently all operators are required to temporarily suspend their pilot who is issued with Pakistan pilot licence from operating flights until their licences can be verified by Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA). Once verification has been carried out, the CAAM will inform operators for their reinstatement immediately,” the letter emailed to the Pakistan aviation authority said.
Etihad reviewing records
Separately, Etihad Airways said it was working closely with the UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) to verify the qualifications and licences of the Pakistani pilots employed by the airline, a spokesperson told Reuters on Thursday.
“While we can confirm the authenticity of these pilots, we are however carrying out further precautionary due diligence with an additional audit.”
The GCAA in a statement released earlier on Thursday said it was reviewing its records to ensure no “suspicious licences issued by the PCAA” had entered its system.
The GCAA said it was in contact with Pakistani authorities but did not indicate whether it had taken any preliminary action against pilots with licences issued in the country.
Earlier, the GCAA had written a letter to the director general of Civil Aviation Authority Hassan Nasir Jamy and sought verification of credentials of aircraft maintenance engineers and flight operations officers who originally possessed licence issued by the CAA.
Probe into ‘illegal’ licences of 236 pilots still on, says govt
The development comes as the federal government tried to assuage concerns about Pakistani pilots, stating that an inquiry into the issuance of ‘illegal’ licences issued to 236 pilots between 2012 and 2018 was in progress.
At a joint press conference on Thursday, Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Haider Zaidi, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Barrister Shahzad Akbar and Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz assured that the government was committed to ensuring merit and transparency in all national institutions.
Zaidi said that in March last year, the PTI government had introduced a new aviation policy as its top priority was the safety of passengers.
He said after an investigation, some 54 pilots were grounded. An inquiry into irregularities committed in the aviation sector was under way and would hopefully be completed within four months, he added.
The minister said that after completion of the inquiry, the national flag carrier would be purged of all irregular inductions and it would become an airline observing high safety standards.
Meanwhile, a global airlines’ rating website — AirlineRating.com — has lowered the ranking of PIA to ‘one-star’ airline as the issue of pilots’ ‘dubious licences’ continues to haunt the national flag carrier.
The PIA has so far not commented on the lowering of its ranking by the website.