KARACHI/RAWALPINDI: The global aviation watchdog has cleared the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) from its significant safety concerns, paving the way for lifting restrictions on Pakistani-registered aircraft by the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In a Jan 4 letter addressed to PCAA director general Khaqan Murtaza, Interna­tional Civil Aviation Orga­nisation (ICAO) official Denis Guindon stated that a validation committee “reviewed the actions and relevant evidence validated in Pakistan” and it determined that the action “taken by Pakistan had successfully resolved” the concerns.

The restrictions were imposed on Pakistan on Sept 18, 2020. A nine-member ICAO committee then carried out a 10-day audit in the country last year, which was concluded in early December.

The letter, a copy of which is provided to Dawn, reads: “During the audit, the ICAO team reviewed the corrective actions taken and related evidence presented by Pakistan to address the [concerns] regarding the licensing system of the state, specifically in relation to the examinations conducted by the PCAA and by delegated or designated training organisations prior to the issuance of licences and ratings.”

A CAA spokesperson told Dawn that the authority had started contacting UK Civil Aviation Authority and the European Commission to convey the resolution of safety concerns by ICAO.

“It will be emphasised to permit operations of Pakistani-registered airlines to the UK and Europe at the earliest,” he said, adding: “It is expected that the UK and EU will issue permissions on a fast-track basis.”

About pilots’ exams, the spokesperson said the CAA would start their examinations by the end of March followed by the issuance of licences.

In July 2020, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) suspended the third country operator authorisation of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to operate flights in the EU member states due to safety concerns against the backdrop of the May 22, 2020 Karachi plane crash and the subsequent damning statement of Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan that 40 per cent of Pakistani pilots had dubious licences.

The US Department of Transportation, while expressing concerns over flight safety, also revoked the special permission granted to PIA in July 2020 to operate special flights to and from the United States.

In December 2020, the EASA extended the ban and made it clear that the restrictions would not be lifted without the safety audit of the CAA by ICAO.

Meanwhile, CAA chief Khaqan Murtaza termed the ICAO validation a huge success that was possible because of the regulatory team.

According to Reuters, PIA issued a statement citing chief executive Arshad Malik as welcoming the ICAO conclusion as a positive development for aviation in Pakistan, which would pave the way for the resumption of PIA flights to Britain and the rest of Europe.

Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2022

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