Since 1965, PIA has had atleast 8 major crashes and various minor ones, its constantly been in the news for all the wrong reasons like crashes, drug trafficking, smuggling and now the Fake Licence Scam!
In June this year PIA was in the news once again, they had a crash followed by the outrageous Fake Pilot scam. PIA grounded as many as 150 pilots with alleged fake licences. The Pakistan Civil Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan claimed that 1 in every 3 pilots has a fake licence. This news immediately made international headlines across the globe because it wasn’t just the safety of their own skies but now the safety of the entire world at risk.
It is extremely alarming to think of an airplane coming out of Pakistan, flown by a pilot with a fake license getting access to any other country’s airspace, it would be a major breach of security.
This story came to light in May this year, after the tragic crash in Karachi of PIA 8303 killing 97 people. In an investigation carried out by the authorities, Mr Khan claimed “that 262 out of the country’s 860 pilots which includes 104 flying abroad had either cheated or had fake licences”, and out of 434 pilots with PIA, 150 pilots had “either bogus or suspicious licences “. He also said ” We have decided to ground these 150 pilots with bogus licences with immediate effect”.
IATA made a statement saying “irregularities found in a pilots license at the airline represent a serious lapse in safety controls” .
The reason for the crash as stated by Mr Khan to the parliament was “Human Error” as “the Pilot and ATC failed to follow protocol, the pilots were distracted, talking about coronavirus with each other as both their families had been affected by the virus”. He also stated that there was nothing wrong with the Airbus A320 aircraft, which had taken off from Lahore for Karachi. Mr Khan further put the fault on the the pilots for failing to deploy the landing gear correctly that led to the aircraft scraping the runway before a go around and on the air traffic controller for failing to inform the pilots that the plane’s engines had been damaged in the first attempt. “When the control tower asked him to increase the plane’s altitude, the pilot said “I’ll manage”. There was over-confidence,” Mr Khan was quoted saying. The crash finally took place due to dual engine failure that was damaged during the first approach as the landing gear had not been extended properly.
Countries such as Vietnam and UAE raised concerns as they’ve employed Pakistani pilots, while PCAA has verified that the credentials of 96 out of 104 pilots flying overseas with UAE/GACA, Turkish Airlines, Bahrain Air, Malaysia and Hong kong were found to be legit, while all 12 Pakistani pilots flying in Vietnam were found to have valid credentials as well. In early July, PIA had terminated the services of 52 of its employees citing fake degrees as one of the reasons, a week later another 34 pilots of PIA were suspended by Pakistan Aviation Authority. The Express Tribune said “Approximately 40 per cent of the airline pilot licences issued by PCAA are either falsified or otherwise not ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) compliant,” describing the situation as a “grave safety concern”.
EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) has suspended operations of PIA to its EU member states for a period of 6 months starting July 1st, it also asked its member countries for details of all Pakistani captains. The US also downgraded PIA into category 2, which essentially means no new flights into the United States and no code sharing with any American airlines.
After completing the scrutiny of 262 pilots, the Pakistani Civil Aviation Authority has sent show cause notices to a whopping 193 pilots over dubious track records, 5 PCAA officials have also been suspended and are under scrutiny for issuing dubious licences.
While going into publication we are still awaiting the outcome and fate of the 193 pilots employed in the Pakistani skies, however we would like to highlight that there is no such thing as a Fake Pilot, the question at hand is how many of them have actually obtained their licences through invalid and illegal means inspite of doing the entire pilots training, clearing medicals, and routine checks on board an aircraft.