ISLAMABAD: The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has said the issue of suspected pilots’ licences has reached its conclusion after completion of an inquiry and verification process and action against 82 pilots.
According to the CAA spokesman, its director general in the last few days has issued multiple orders to either cancel or suspend the licences or clear the names of the pilots who had been earlier grounded after a third party independent report had identified anomalies in the computer-based examinations held during 2010 to 2018.
Removing the doubts surrounding the licences of the pilots, the CAA has cleared 180 Pakistani pilots serving in different airlines after minutely verifying/checking their licences.
According to the third party inquiry report finalised in June, more than 250 pilots were identified to have suspected licences due to anomalies found in their computer-based examinations. They were immediately suspended after the news about these licences made its way in national and international media.
May 22 air crash survivor travels on board PIA’s Karachi-Lahore flight
The findings of final investigations carried out by the CAA have been sent to the federal cabinet. The cabinet was informed that the inquiry had been undertaken in the spirit of zero tolerance and transparency, keeping in view the safety of passengers and air travel.
The data revealed that 82 pilots had been found to have committed fraud and misrepresentation while taking technical examinations. The orders to cancel 50 licences, barring those who had obtained stay orders, have been issued while lower category licences of 32 pilots have been suspended for a period ranging from six to nine months.
A source revealed that 180 licences of those pilots had been cleared who had given the examinations as per rules but had either committed violations of flight duty time limitations or had anomalies related to rescheduling of examinations or errors in data provided by airlines operators.
According to the report completed in three months and submitted to the cabinet, warnings have been issued to 42 pilots.
The issue of ‘dubious’ licences drew attention after the statement of Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan in the parliament in June following the May 22 PIA plane crash in Karachi that there were 860 active pilots in the country and 260 of them had not appeared in their exams themselves and almost 30 per cent of the pilots had fake or improper licences.
Some foreign aviation regulators instructed airlines of their countries to immediately ground Pakistani pilots till the CAA verified authenticity of their flying permits. After the news was flashed by the media, the airlines in different countries also sought verification of licences of Pakistani pilots from the CAA.
Shortly afterwards, the CAA initiated the verification process by involving the departments concerned. The available physical evidence of all the pilots was carefully checked and investigated to get to the bottom of affair. The pilots were also asked to appear in person, in case they wanted to explain their side of the story face to face.
The ‘dubious’ licences issue also caught the attention of several other countries and airlines where Pakistani pilots were employed.
The CAA spokesman expected that the early conclusion of the whole affair would restore confidence of the international community in the Pakistani aviation sector.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation has already suggested to the CAA to immediately revamp its “pilot licensing system” before issuing new licences and submit a report to it by Oct 2.
Meanwhile, one of the two survivors of the Karachi plane crash, Zafar Masood, for the first time after the accident travelled by air on Saturday and chose PIA’s flight PK-304 for his journey from Karachi to Lahore.
Mr Masood, who is the president of the Punjab Bank, had requested the airline staff at Karachi airport to allot him the same seat on which he was travelled on May 22 from Lahore to Karachi. Mr Masood was warmly received at Lahore Airport by the Pakistan International Airline’s chief executive officer.
Upon arrival, Mr Masood said that he had complete confidence in national airline.
Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2020