The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.
The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) said on Thursday it had grounded almost a third of its pilots for holding fake or dubious licences, a month after one of its planes crashed into houses killing 98 people.
Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan told the National Assembly (NA) on Wednesday that a large number of commercial pilots possessed “dubious licences.”
PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez Khan said that a government probe had found about 150 of its 434 pilots were carrying "either bogus or suspicious licences." "We have decided to ground those 150 pilots with bogus licences with immediate effect," he said.
A PIA passenger jet is parked on the tarmac at a military base in Makassar, Indonesia. File / AP
He said the management has now written to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to urgently provide the list of other licences found to be dubious and all of them will be indefinitely grounded pending inquiries against them.
"Those found at fault will be terminated from service after following a due process,” he said. The PIA has a fleet of 31 aircraft that fly domestic and international routes.
The spokesman acknowledged the findings of the preliminary investigation report shared with the parliament by the aviation minister on the plane crash of May 22 which claimed 97 lives and reaffirmed PIA’s resolve for further improving safety standards within the company using the findings of the report as guiding principles.
He said that the investigations into dubious licences issued by the aviation regulator were highlighted by the PIA itself in the aftermath of the incident occurred in Panjgur in November 2018 where an ATR skidded off the runway, using the same hot and high approach and then making some elementary level mistakes.
That incident prompted an inquiry into the pilot’s credentials, which were found to be dubious. The same was reported to the regulator and the PIA requested the government to constitute a highlevel inquiry into the matter, which the aviation minister ordered immediately.
A thorough forensic audit was conducted into the licences of all the pilots obtained within the country. The PIA management continuously followed up for expediting the inquiry process and highest executive office of the country also intervened.
Meanwhile, the PIA tracked another 15 such pilots and all of them were grounded pending clearance from the inquiry board. That did cost PIA Rs175-200 million in terms of salaries of such pilots, not to mention additional perks and privileges.
The spokesperson said that based on the internal assessment of the situation consequent to this tragic event, the PIA will be making additional recommendations to the regulatory authority for further improvement which is the order of the day, saying that the regulator would be needed to firm up and bring about zero-tolerance towards misdemeanours in the grant and checking of licences.
Hafeez said some of flights may be cancelled consequently but safety takes precedence over commercial interests and only pilots with impeccable service records and clear credentials will operate the flights.
Airlines in 10 countries had demanded proof of valid flying licences for their Pakistani pilots after it emerged about a third of Pakistan International Airlines aviators were holding "bogus or suspicious" licences. In all, the foreign airlines asked for proof of 176 Pakistani pilot licences.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court ordered the release after both sides said they had reached an amicable settlement of the dispute, involving two planes leased to PIA, a lawyer for the airline said.
The countries, which grounded the Pakistani pilots and asked the Aviation Division to verify their credentials, included the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Vietnam, Turkey and Bahrain.
Experts say that they were victims of the ever-more unpredictable and extreme weather that has hit South Asia in recent years caused by climate change and exacerbated by deforestation, damming and excessive development.
This came in a phone call Sheikh Mohamed received on Wednesday from the Syrian president where they also discussed the ongoing developments in Syria and the Middle East in addition to issues of regional and international interest.
Beijing has maintained a relentless zero-Covid approach with strict border closures and targeted lockdowns, even as other countries tentatively try to ease restrictions.
The pony-tailed senior Khan sporting dark shades and a black facemask over a grey half-sleeved T-shirt was virtually mobbed by the paparazzi and the hordes of policemen as he entered the menacing barred gates of the ARCJ in the congested south Mumbai.