PIA pilot
Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority suspends 68 pilots who are suspected to have 'dubious' licences. Photo for illustrative purpose only. Image Credit:

Dubai: At least 68 more Pakistani pilots have been suspended on charges of having ‘dubious’ flying licences.

Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) suspended the pilots as it continues the process of scrutiny and verification of pilots’ licences. The authority has so far grounded 161 out of total 262 pilots who were suspected of having ‘dubious’ flying licences. The decision about the remaining pilots is expected to be taken soon as the aviation division says it is taking all measures to double check their licences.

Investigations in to the ‘dubious’ flying licences were intensified after Federal Aviation Minister of Pakistan Ghulam Sarwar Khan announced in the National Assembly last month that nearly 40 per cent of Pakistani pilots holds ‘suspicious’ licences.

However, the PCAA denied the minister’s allegations and claimed that all commercial/airline transport pilots licences (CPL/ATPL) issued “are genuine and validly issued” and none of the pilot licences was fake. The authority said that some 262 pilots were already grounded pending inquiry in the ‘dubious’ licence cases against them.

Pilots

Discrepancies

“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,” a PCAA official explained.

Impact

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.

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.

A number of airlines and regulatory authorities in the Gulf and many other countries also wrote to the PCAA to validate the licences of pilots employed by them.

Active pilots

A spokesperson of the Aviation Division said that all the Pakistani pilots flying on international or domestic routes had been cleared and well experienced, Dawn news reported.

“Our top priority is public safety and we can’t compromise on it in any case,” he said, adding that all measures were being taken to ensure the safety in line with the government’s directives.

He said the entire process of scrutiny and validation of licences was being done after a double check and disciplinary action was being closely monitored and supervised by federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan himself.