The saga over the possession of dubious or fake licences by Pakistanis pilot is getting murkier and confusing with every passing day with allegations and contradictory statements from all quarters.
The pilots have decided to retaliate as they are been sacked from their jobs, claiming none of them possess any dubious licences. After Pakistani pilots were grounded by foreign airlines and letters were written to verify their credentials, the government seems to be in damage control mode.
‘All licences are genuine’
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has said that all commercial/airline transport pilots licences (CPL/ATPL) it issued “are genuine and validly issued”.
The statement appears to be a direct contradiction to the aviation minister’s allegation that almost 40 percent of Pakistani pilots possessed fake licences.
In a letter addressed to high-ranking official Oman who expressed to safety concerns over licences of Pakistani pilots, CAA Director General Hassan Nasir Jamy tried to downplay the statement of the aviation minister.
The regulator’s confirmation contradicts aviation minister’s claim about fake dubious licences and vindicates the stance of the Pilots Association. The CAA has blamed the media and social media for exaggerating and spreading the issue of bogus licenses.
The CAA said it had already verified/cleared 96 Pakistani pilots out of 104 names received from various civil aviation authorities and foreign airlines It said the government immediately took notice and embarked upon the process of verifying the credentials of all licensed pilots.
Reaction and Pilots’ stance
Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (PALPA) said that none of the pilots in Pakistan possesses dubious or fake licenses and their point of view was vindicated once again after the letter.
The PALPA said that the letter quoted that none of the licenses is dubious and shows that the matter was not handled in an amicable manner.
“The whole episode has caused damage to the reputation of the nation, its airline and its pilots worldwide,” Palpa secretary Imran Narejo said,
He said the issue of licences had been mishandled by the aviation minister, PIA management and CAA, which proved damaging for the pilots of the national airline and other countries.
The European Union Air Safety Agency suspended PIA authorisation to operate to EU member states and onward to the United Kingdom for six months.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) also shared its concern over the serious lapse in the licensing and safety oversight by the aviation regulator.
Many countries have barred PIA flights into their country and grounded Pakistani pilots until their licenses are verified. This includes the United States, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Malaysia, Vietnam and even Ethiopia.
Aviation regulators of United States have dropped the safety ranking of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and added it to a category 2.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) made a formal announcement to drop the ranking saying the safety standard does not meet the minimum requirements. The CAA’s standards below the mark and it even neglected safety standards for US flights.
Category 2 rating means the aviation authority is deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping or inspection procedures.
Aviation Minister’s statement
Last month, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan made the shocking disclosure 40 percent of the country’s pilots held fake licences and continued to operate flights.
While furnishing the preliminary report on the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane crash in Karachi on 22nd May, the minister claimed that
He later said that 262 pilots had falsified their credentials and 141 belonged to the PIA, while the rest belonged to private airlines, flying clubs, chartered plane services, or foreign airlines.
The CAA suspended the licences of only 34 pilots PIA and issued them a show-cause notice to explain as to how they performed flying duty and appeared in a written exam on the same date.
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.
What is the reality?
The letter written by the CAA should be examined whether the aviation regulator has sought to downplay the matter just to placate foreign airlines and civil aviation authorities from taking action.
Why did the aviation minister hurriedly issue a statement on the floor of the august parliament that pilot licences were fake? Was it apart of an attempt to deflect attention from PIA crash investigation?
The minister had blamed the pilot for the air crash saying they appeared overconfident and were discussing the coronavirus situation. Why did the minister attempt to implicate all pilots to absolve themselves from any responsibility?
This has raised a lot a question whether the CAA is on damage control after causing irreparable losses and embarrassment around the world. If the pilots’ licences are genuine, perhaps the aviation minister should be held accountable and be sent packing.
The image of the national airline has been tarnished and it is facing massive losses already worsened by the coronavirus pandemic as travel remains suspended. The people have the right to know the truth and right there are a lot of unanswered questions.