PIA pilot
Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority claims that all commercial licences issued to Pakistani pilots are genuine. Photo for illustrative purpose only. Image Credit:

Dubai: Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) has finally spoken out on the ‘fake pilots’ reports claiming that all commercial flying linceces issued by the authority are genuine.

The PCAA’s claim directly contradicts earlier statement of Pakistanis Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar who said last month that nearly 40 per cent of Pakistani active commercial pilots held ‘dubious’ flying licences. His statement triggered controversy as a number of foreign airlines grounded Pakistani pilots and the Pakistan International Airlines was also barred from flying to Europe and US.

The PCAA, which is regulatory authority to issue flying licences in Pakistan, said that all commercial/airline transport pilots licences (CPL/ATPL) it approved are genuine and validly issued, reported Dawn news on Thursday.

Official letter

“It is important to clarify that all CPL/ATPL pilot licences issued by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority are genuine and validly issued. None of the pilot licences are fake, rather the matter has been misconstrued and incorrectly highlighted in the media/social media,” wrote PCAA Director General Hassan Nasir Jamy in a letter dated July 13 to a high-ranking aviation official of Oman.

The letter was addressed to Mubarak Saleh Al Gheilani, the acting DG of Civil Aviation Regulation, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, in response to his July 2 letter and July 9 email with regard to safety concerns over licences of Pakistani pilots working with his country’s airline, according to the Pakistani newspaper.

Verified licences

Jamy, who is also the secretary of aviation division, told the Omani official that the CAA had already verified/cleared 96 Pakistani pilots out of 104 names received from various civil aviation authorities and foreign airlines (UAE/GACA, Vietnam Airlines, Bahrain Air, Civil Aviation Malaysia, Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department and Turkish Airlines)”.

Contradicts minister’s claim

The Regulator’s confirmation contradicts aviation minister’s claim about ‘fake licences’ while Pakistan Airlines Pilots’ Association (PALPA) terms development an endorsement of its stance.

Last month, while furnishing before the National Assembly a preliminary report on the May 22 Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane crash in Karachi, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan had claimed that 40 per cent of the country’s pilots held “fake licences”.

What is the issue

Aviation Minister Sarwar has said last month that some airlines’ pilots had falsified their credentials. He revealed this while presenting provisional report of the PIA crash which killed 97 people in Karachi on May 22. He held the pilots and Air Traffic Control responsible for the crash.

Pakistani pilots working in their country and with different other airlines around the world have come under the scanner after a startling revelation by Aviation Minister Sarwar regarding a racket for “fake” flying licences in the country. He said on the floor of the parliament at that close to 40 per cent (around 262) active pilots in Pakistan held “dubious” flying licences.

The 262 pilots — 109 commercial and 153 transport pilots — were grounded pending conclusion of inquiries against them.

Pilots

Impact worldwide

The aviation minister’s statements proved to be a suicidal attack on his own ministry as the global community has not only been banning the PIA from operating flights within their airspace, but has also been barring Pakistani pilots from flying planes abroad.

However, Jamy tried to downplay the damning statement of the aviation minister when he stated in his letter that “some concerns” were raised about the validity of the licences of “some pilots”. “The federal government immediately took notice and embarked upon the process of verifying the credentials of all licensed pilots through a forensic scrutiny,” he stated.

PCAA action

“During this process, it occurred that there were discrepancies pertaining to the computer-based examination, which is one of the steps in the licensing process. Immediately upon completion of the process, the pilots falling in this category were treated as ‘suspects’ till clearance. They were taken off from flying duties, if any, and were grounded pending formal process, after providing them opportunity to explain their position,” he explained.

Damage control

“Pakistan has always maintained a strong regulatory oversight mechanism for safety of skies all over. It has been ensured that only those pilots and aircrew with valid qualification, credentials and unblemished record shall be allowed to fly. I hope this letter is convincing evidence of Pakistan’s continued commitment towards aviation safety. It is highlighted that as a responsible

A CAA official said that several similar letters were written to civil aviation authorities and airlines of different countries to control the damage the aviation minister’s statement had caused.

PALPA response

A PALPA spokesperson said on Wednesday that the CAA’s letter in which it admitted that the ATPL licence of any pilot in Pakistan was neither dubious nor fake was an endorsement of their stance. “The whole episode has caused damage to the reputation of the nation, its airline and its pilots worldwide,” Palpa secretary Imran Narejo said in a statement.

He said the issue of licences had been mishandled by the aviation minister, PIA management and CAA, which proved very damaging for the pilots of the national airline as well as others working at the international level.

International reaction

The issue of ‘fake’ licences drew world attention after the aviation minister’s statement last month. The European Union Air Safety Agency suspended PIA authorisation to operate to the EU member states for six months, while the International Air Transport Association (IATA) also shared its concern over the serious lapse in the licensing and safety oversight by the aviation regulator.

The US Department of Transportation had also revoked permission for the PIA to conduct charter flights to the United States. The US Federal Aviation Administration also downgraded Pakistan’s air safety rating after the agency raised concerns about pilot certifications.