A Pakistan International Airlines passenger plane prepares to take off. File
Pakistan grounded 262 airline pilots in June 2020 after they were suspected of cheating on mandatory licence tests — a scandal that tainted Pakistan’s aviation industry and its flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), which European and US aviation regulators barred from there territories.
"It has withdrawn its objection on significant safety concerns,” a spokesman for Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA), Saifullah Khan, said, referring to the ICAO. An ICAO spokesperson said that the organisation had conducted the audit in December last year.
An ICAO audit team had visited Pakistan to undertake a safety audit of the aviation authority completing the process on Dec.10, however, its final report has now been released.
Pakistan's CAA distributed a statement it said came from the ICAO stating: "The Committee determined that the actions taken by Pakistan had successfully resolved significant safety concerns." The CAA has said it hoped it could resume licencing pilots in February.
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.
The scandal came to light following the crash of a PIA plane in May 2020 in the city of Karachi, in which 97 people were killed.
Pakistani officials accused 262 pilots, a vast majority of whom were flying commercial aircraft, of having someone else take their mandatory exams for qualifying as a pilot.
Following the scandal, the ICAO asked Pakistan to undertake immediate corrective action and suspend the issuing of any new pilot licences.
Pertinent to note that the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) had suspended PIA from operating flights to European Union (EU) member countries for six months in July 2020 due to safety concerns.
However, it is now expected the ban would be lifted soon, as the ICAO's validation committee has cleared a safety audit report after which the Significant Safety Concerns (SSC) has also been eased out.
"It is not just a mission that brought back stranded and distressed citizens from around the world, but Vande Bharat has been a mission of hope and happiness, of letting people know that they will not be left behind even in the most testing times," Puri said.
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.
All the passengers detected as positive in RAT on arrival at the airports will self isolate themselves for 10 days at their homes, decides the Pakistan's National Command and Operation Centre.
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