40Pct PIA Pilots Have ‘Fake Licenses’

“They did not have flying experience either”

The airline which at one time was known worldwide for its “Great People to Fly With” branding became highly unionized with an overflow of personnel with party affiliations, suggest several observers to DesPardes. “Capability and not capacity hamstrung its performance”, one expert said.

These industry experts commented when asked after reports appeared today that Pakistan’s Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan, while speaking in the National Assembly, said the initial report of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) June 22 plane crash found the pilots and air traffic control (ATC) officials at fault for not following set procedures.

Khan said both the pilots and the ATC ignored “standard protocols”, an observation made earlier also by some independent aviation experts.

The national air career’s Airbus A320 crashed last month in a Karachi suburb close to the Jinnah International Airport, killing all but two of the 99 aboard. Flight PK8303 from Lahore came down about a kilometer short of the runway on its second attempt to land.

The minister said the government had observed that major airlines in other countries did not have such a history of crashes and therefore, started to investigate pilots. There are 860 active pilots in the country, he said, adding that of these 860, 262 pilots did not even take their exams themselves.

Decrying that pilots were not hired on merit, Khan said fake degrees and licenses were issued. “Almost 40 percent of pilots have fake licenses,” he revealed, adding that they did not have flying experience either.

He added that the government had started to take action against all such pilots. “In the first phase, 54 such pilots were identified. Show cause notices were issued to 24 and nine others confessed that they were unqualified.

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“I believe this issue should not be politicized. It is a matter of national security. The inquiry has been free, fair and transparent,” he concluded.

The government had formed a committee, to determine the causes of the crash and issue a report in one month’s time.

An 11-member team of Airbus, the manufacturer of the A320 aircraft, had also visited the country and investigated the site of the incident to offer technical assistance to Pakistani investigators in the PK-8303 crash probe.

Major airlines in other countries did not have such a history of crashes. PIA is carrying a huge cumulative losses in billions over several decades — a burden to the national kitty. Transformational measures are being taken by a new top management while options remain on the table to privatize it or go for public-private partnership.

Original report in Dawn