RAWALPINDI: Amid the aviation crisis, the Pakistan International Airlines management has decided not to lodge an appeal against the European Union Aviation Safety Agency’s (EASA) suspension of the PIA flights to and from the EU member states as the two-month deadline for filing the appeal expired on Aug 30.
The decision was taken in the wake of a scheduled visit to Pakistan of the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) team on Sept 7 to assess the operational management and control systems of the PIA. According to sources, the IATA-designated safety audit team is expected to stay here for five days.
During the visit, the PIA management believes, they would be in a better position to convince the team about the safety measures and fulfil all the requirements set forth by the international body pertaining to the national flag carrier.
On June 30, the EASA had written a letter to the PIA, informing the latter that apart from the pending issue of implementing safety management tools in the airline’s flight operation within the stipulated time, it had suspended authorisation of PIA flights to and from the EU member countries for six months effective from July 1. However, the EASA said an appeal against the suspension of authorisation could be filed in writing within two months.
The two-month period ended on Aug 30.
The Operational Safety Audit is carried out after every two years. The last such audit was carried out in 2018. The audit programme was designed by the IATA in 2003 to assess the operational management and control systems of airlines.
The IATA had expressed concern over the “serious lapse in the licensing and safety oversight by the aviation regulator”. Besides the IATA, the EASA had also expressed concern after the PIA flight PK-8303 crash in Karachi on May 22, followed by Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan’s June 24 disclosure in parliament on that licences of 262 of the 850 pilots “suspicious”.
The sources said the PIA management also informed the Aviation Division that they had decided not to lodge an appeal with the EASA against the suspension of authorisation of PIA flights as they had consulted all stakeholders, taken input from them and legal experts who also advised them to wait for the visit of IATA’s safety audit team. They said the PIA management would be in a better position to show the IATA audit team all safety measures they had pointed out and would convince them to withdraw their decision to suspend the PIA flights.
The sources said the EASA had 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.
When contacted, PIA spokesman Abdulah Hafeez Khan he said: “We are in continuous talks with the United Kingdom and European Union authorities to get this suspension lifted and have engaged one of the biggest aviation firms to assist PIA in this regard.”
The spokesman said that in order to retain its foothold in the market, the PIA resumed its flights to the UK through alternative arrangements with better products which would continue till the time the direct flights permission was given. He said the PIA was hopeful that the suspension would be lifted soon.
Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2020