Brussels: The world's largest pilots' group says the captain of a Tunisian airliner that ditched in the sea near Italy should be reinstated because of his "outstanding airmanship" during the accident in 2005, in which 16 of the 39 people on board died.

Investigators found that Captain Chafik Gharbi was unaware his turboprop had run out of fuel during a flight from Italy to Tunisia because of a malfunctioning fuel gauge.

In March, an Italian court sentenced Gharbi to 10 years in prison because he attempted to restart the engines after both failed, rather than focusing on gliding to the nearest airport.

But the International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations says Gharbi reacted to the situation in "textbook fashion."