COMMERCIAL aviation is an essential activity for economic growth. The preconditions require safety of passengers and public life and property on ground.

The speech by Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan in the National Assembly clearly indicates that we are far from international safety standards or regulatory essentials. This came the hard way as we lost so many lives in the PK-8303 crash.

Accuracy of the statistics in his speech is also indicative of the fact that his advisers did not go through due diligence in formulating his text and narrative.

The prognosis, implications and impact of the lack of attention to details now pose a grave danger to the future of the national carrier and to Pakistani airlines and aviation professionals in the world. I say this in the light of the actions being contemplated around the globe, besides a checkered aviation history in Pakistan.

As President of Society of Air Safety Investigators, I visited European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to assist PIA in public interest. I learnt that EASA had serious concerns about CAA, Pakistan, besides observations on PIA. The letters by PIA to foreign embassies and explanations justifying the well-known circumstances of the crash are not expected to bear fruit.

The International Civil and Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and EASA are under pressure by top aviation giants to consider a ban on Pakistani airlines due to public pressure. The ICAO may also be under pressure from the public as there are several ICAO safety oversight audits of Pakistan which were perhaps not too laudatory.

Explanations by tainted aviation institutions are futile. The ball is in the government’s court. God forbid in a case of global ban on our national carrier, the recovery may be a very long haul that may benefit other carriers.

Immediate interaction is needed with international aviation institutions to avoid punitive action before it is too late. A number of airlines are already in the process of grounding Pakistani pilots, engineers and ground staff.

Major corrective actions and an overhaul of our institutions is needed instead of a breakup of CAA as regulatory and service providers. This will weaken CAA Pakistan.

I have represented Pakistan as president of SASI at major international forums with a background in CAA for a decade. This includes repeated invitations by government of Australia, to review their CAA standard operating procedures and analysis of safety in South Asia.

Resultantly, my book Improving Aviation Safety in Pakistan and South Asia was launched by the International Federal Airlines Pilots Association in 2010.

Wg-Cdr (r) Syed Naseem Ahmed
President, Society of Air Safety Investigators Pakistan

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2020