RAWALPINDI: The ban imposed by the European Union on Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight operations is expected to be lifted soon, as the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) validation committee has cleared a safety audit report after which the Significant Safety Concerns (SSC) will be gradually eased out.

“Yes, the ICAO has informed the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) that the safety audit conducted by its team recently was presented before its validation committee, which cleared it after which the SSC will be removed and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency will lift the ban,” CAA Director General Khaqan Murtaza told the participants of a meeting of the Senate Sub-Committee on Aviation on Wednesday.

He further said that until the CAA received the approval, the PIA would not be able to resume flight operations to the EU.

An ICAO audit team that had visited Pakistan to undertake a safety audit of the aviation authority completed the process on Dec 10; however, its final report will be released in a few weeks and shared publicly.

The meeting of the sub-committee on aviation was held at Parliament Lodges, Islamabad on Wednesday and convened by Senator Saleem Mandviwalla. It was attended by MNA Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Senator Afnanullah Khan, Senator Aon Abbas, the aviation secretary, Mr Murtaza and other relevant persons.

Mr Abbasi, who was especially invited to the meeting, called for a review of and discussion on amendments to the Civil Aviation Rules of 1994 and National Aviation Policy of 2019.

He said the current aviation policy had nothing to do with aviation as the entire draft lacked points about engineering and how the CAA supported Regular Public Transport (RPT) operations, which was a basic aspect of aviation.

The former prime minister said the CAA land was most expensive in the country due to which it was difficult to install a simulator for training pilots as compared to the UAE where its cost was half of that in Pakistan. He also suggested enhancing the qualification level of new pilots to graduation and that they must possess some experience. He also suggested a separate chapter about RPT in the aviation policy, if the sector was to grow.

The participants of the meeting also discussed the shortcomings in the existing policy and proposed some suggestions regarding customs duties on aircraft parts and reducing the very high operational cost. The unavailability of qualified engineers was also discussed in the meeting.

The CAA director general said aviation policies were being devised, but hardly implemented.

Senator Mandviwalla suggested including facilities for aircrafts on ground and also discussed the issue of the Airport Security Force that, he said, claims to lack security gadgets and other equipment supposed to be provided by the CAA.

Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2021

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