Pakistan International Airlines grounds 150 pilots with 'dubious licences'

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The cash-strapped Pakistan International Airlines on Thursday announced that it has grounded 150 pilots with “dubious licenses”, a day after the preliminary probe report of the Karachi plane crash blamed the pilots and the air traffic control for the tragedy that killed 97 people.

Grounding so many pilots will affect the PIA flight operation, the spokesperson for the national carrier said, adding that they have already dismissed six pilots with fake degrees.

Those pilots who get their licenses verified will be allowed back on duty, Geo News quoted the PIA spokesperson as saying.

The national flag carrier on Thursday said it has grounded 150 pilots with “dubious licenses”, a day after the report of the plane crash blamed the pilots and the air traffic control (ATC) for the incident, the report added.

“We have asked the Civil Aviation Authority to send the list of the remaining licenses, the spokesperson said. We acknowledge the report and are working on making our standard better.

In a letter to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), PIA chairman requested the aviation authority for details of the remaining pilots with dubious and fake commercial licenses.

Action will be taken against all those pilots with fake licenses, PIA chairman said, adding they will take all the necessary steps to make the commercial operation safe.

The decision to ground the pilots was taken after Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan disclosed in the National Assembly on Wednesday that a large number of commercial pilots possessed dubious licences’, Dawn newspaper reported.

Khan said that the pilots were not focused and their lack of concentration had caused the crash.

Human error by the pilots and air traffic control caused the crash of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane, he said.

The PIA spokesman acknowledged the findings of the preliminary investigation report shared with the parliament by the aviation minister on the plane crash and reaffirmed PIA’s resolve for further improving safety standards within the company using the findings of the report as guiding principles, the Dawn report said.

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, it said.

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 high level inquiry into the matter which the aviation minister ordered immediately.

Meanwhile, the PIA tracked another 15 such pilots and all of them were grounded pending clearance from the inquiry board. That did cost PIA Rs 175-200 million in terms of salaries of such pilots, not to mention additional perks and privileges, the report added.

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.

The domestic flight from Lahore to Karachi crashed in a residential area near the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on May 22.

The Airbus A320 aircraft of the national carrier had 91 passengers and a crew of eight when it crashed into the Jinnah Garden area near Model Colony in Malir on Friday, minutes before its landing. One girl died on the ground after suffering burn injuries.

Two passengers miraculously survived the crash.