PIA to file appeal for resumption of flights to EU countries

Published August 24, 2020
Sources said the agency asked the Pakistani authorities to clarify 11 points — safety management system (SMS) being the most important one.  — APP/File
Sources said the agency asked the Pakistani authorities to clarify 11 points — safety management system (SMS) being the most important one. — APP/File

RAWALPINDI: The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is likely to lodge an appeal with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on Thursday against suspension of its flight operations to and from European Union member states for six months.

The decision to suspend the PIA’s flight operations — in the wake of Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan’s disclosure during a speech in the National Assembly about the grounding of 262 pilots whose commercial flying licences were found ‘suspicious’ — was enforced on July 1.

According to sources, the appeal has been prepared by the PIA and the authorities concerned and it will be presented to the Aviation Division before lodging it with the EASA.

The sources said that after the issue of pilots’ suspicious licences came to light and the EASA suspended authorisation of PIA flights to and from the EU member countries, the agency asked the Pakistani authorities to clarify 11 points — safety management system (SMS) being the most important one.

The EASA also asked as to how the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCCA) had been functioning, how it issued commercial pilot licences to applicants and how the candidates solved their examination papers.

The sources said the EASA had also asked about the number of aircraft being operated by the national flag carrier and how the airline maintained safety measures.

The appeal to be lodged with the EASA also contained details of major airplane crashes occurred in Pakistan over the past five years and the safety measures taken by the authorities to prevent such incidents in future, the sources added.

The EASA has demanded implementation of the safety management system in the PIA which is acquiring the best system in the world. The PIA is also planning to add eight to 10 aircraft to its fleet or replace old planes with better and new ones.

According to the sources, before lodging the appeal with the EASA, the PIA will give a presentation in the Aviation Division.

The PIA has also been preparing a comprehensive business plan in consultation with international consultants, but it has been temporarily stopped due to the ongoing crisis in the aviation industry which has been badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Before the EASA suspended the PIA flights on July 1, the airline was given an opportunity to voice its opinion on the agency’s intentions to suspend the authorisation. The PIA provided its opinion, but it was declared insufficient by the EASA.

Following the PIA plane crash in Karachi on May 22 and the initial findings laid down in the preliminary inquiry report showing successive breaches of multiple layers of safety defences in the safety management system, the EASA had expressed concern over the PIA’s safety management system which, it said, was not achieving its primary objective.

The PIA hopes that with the reparative and swift actions taken by the government and the airline management, the suspension of flight operations to the EU member states is likely to be lifted soon.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2020

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