FOLLOWING the release of an initial investigation fingering human error as the primary reason for last month’s crash, state-owned Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has suspended 150 pilots after questions over the authenticity of their licenses emerged.
This is as the Pakistani aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan told Parliament that 262 of Pakistan’s 860 active, licensed pilots had been found to have suspect licenses.
On May 22, 2020 a PIA plane crash killed 98 people in Karachi southern Pakistan.
A report emanating from Al Jazeera quoted PIA spokesman Abdullah Khan stating: “Out of our 434 pilots, 150 will be grounded as of today (Thursday).”
“It will totally cripple us. But we cannot take risks with this.”
According to the Al Jazeera website, Thursday’s suspensions will remain until investigations can be carried out to verify the authenticity of the pilots’ licenses. The airline will primarily look into allegations that the pilots did not sit for the examinations themselves and sent others instead.
“We are following reports from Pakistan regarding fake pilot licenses, which are concerning and represent a serious lapse in the licensing and safety oversight by the aviation regulator. We are trying to obtain more information on the matter,” the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said in a statement on Friday.
Seventeen pilots were suspended in January 2019 over similar allegations following a probe into an air crash in the southwestern Pakistani town of Panjgur – where a plane carrying 43 passengers careered off the runway after making an unsafe approach – said Khan. No one was injured in that incident.
On Wednesday, Pakistani aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan had told Parliament that 262 of Pakistan’s 860 active, licensed pilots had been found to have suspect licenses.
“[They] were found not to have given their exams themselves,” said Khan. “They give money and have a dummy candidate sit in their place.”
On May 22, 98 people were killed when a PIA Airbus A320 crashed into a residential neighborhood about 1.4km (0.9 miles) from Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport.
The initial investigation report, released by Khan on Wednesday, said “human error” by the aircraft’s pilots and air traffic controllers was primarily to blame for the crash.
Aviation Minister Khan said a government inquiry was ongoing into all 262 alleged cases of fraud in obtaining pilots licenses.
PIA’s spokesman told Al Jazeera that any pilots found to have lied about their credentials “will be terminated”.
State-owned PIA is the largest of Pakistan’s commercial air carriers, with smaller airlines Serene Air and Air Blue taking up most of the rest of the country’s air traffic.
Representatives for those airlines – whose pilots were also included in the list of alleged “dubious” license holders – were not immediately available for comment.
With Agency reports