Pakistan’s traditional allies in the Gulf have reportedly grounded Pakistan origin pilots after the issue of commercial pilots possessing suspicious licenses came to light, casting a long shadow on the future of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).
Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates besides Oman are now among the countries which have decided to remove pilots of Pakistan origin due to a fake license issue.
There are reports that Kuwait Airways, one of the oldest Airways in West Asia has grounded all its seven pilots of Pakistani origin.
A UK-based Pakistani-origin journalist Gul Bukhari had tweeted, “Kuwait Airways has grounded all 7 Pakistani pilots and suspended 56 engineers and ground handling staff in the backdrop of fake license issue. Similar reports from Qatar, Oman, Emirates and Vietnam.”
An expert who tracks the civil aviation sector said that International Civil Aviation Organization should take notice of the issue at hand and may even consider suspending PIA in the larger interest of the passengers.
The issue of commercial pilots possessing suspicious licenses came to light after the preliminary probe report of the Karachi plane crash blamed the pilots and the air traffic control for the disaster that killed 97 people.
On July 22, Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan revealed in the National Assembly that more than 30% of civilian pilots in Pakistan have fake licenses and are not qualified to fly.
Khan said 262 pilots in the country “did not take the exam themselves” and had paid someone else to sit it on their behalf.
“Pakistan has 860 active pilots serving its domestic airlines — including the country’s Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flagship — as well as a number of foreign carriers”, Khan said.
“PIA acknowledges that fake licenses is not just a PIA issue but spread across the entire Pakistani airline industry,” spokesperson Abdullah Khan said.
“The pilots were discussing corona throughout the flight. They were not focused. They talked about the coronavirus and how their families were affected,” Abdullah Khan said, adding that the pilots were “overconfident.”
According to Khan, the pilots were told three times by air traffic controllers that the plane was too high and they should not attempt to land, “but the captain did not pay any heed to these instructions.”