Amid global concerns that some Pakistani pilots may have been using “dubious” licenses, the Vietnam’s aviation authority on June 29 decided to ground all Pakistani pilots working for local airlines.
The Pakistan government in the same month had said that it would ground 262 airline pilots whose credentials may have been falsified, after global airlines body IATA said that irregularities found in pilot licenses at in Pakistan represent a “serious lapse” in safety controls.
“The head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) has ordered a suspension for all Pakistani pilots working for Vietnamese airlines,” the CAAV said in a statement.
The suspension will be in effect until further notice from CAAV, it said, adding that the authority was coordinating with Pakistani authorities to review the pilots’ profiles.
Inquiry into pilot licenses comes after the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) crash in Karachi which killed 97 people onboard. The flight PK-303 from Lahore was about to land when it crashed at Jinnah Garden area near Model Colony in Malir, just a minute before its landing.
The crash prompted a preliminary report, which found that the pilots had failed to follow standard procedures and disregarded alarms. Pakistani Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan then revealed that all the pilots were accused of having someone sit one or more exam papers for them, and sometimes even all the eight papers required for an airline pilot’s license.
According to the data available with CAAV, Vietnam had licensed 27 Pakistani pilots, and 12 of them were still active, while the other 15 pilots’ contracts had expired or were inactive due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Of the 12 active pilots, 11 were working for budget airline VietJet Aviation and one for Jetstar Pacific, a unit of the national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines.
In a statement, VietJet said it had stopped assigning work to its Pakistani pilots as soon as news of the license issue emerged and no pilots with Pakistan-issued licenses were currently flying for the airline.
“Vietnam Airlines and Bamboo Airways were not using any pilots from Pakistan”, the CAAV said.
When PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez asked about the Vietnam’s aviation authority’s move of grounding all Pakistani pilots working for local airlines, he said that the PIA had nothing to do with Pakistani pilots working for other airlines as they had joined them at their own.
Meanwhile, PIA and two other private airlines have grounded their 119 pilots suspected of obtaining ‘dubious’ licences of commercial pilots.
Of the 119 pilots, 107 were associated with PIA, ten others were serving with Serene Air and the remaining two were with other private airlines operating in Pakistan and abroad.
PIA spokesman said that the PIA had taken action against 107 pilots with dubious licenses that have been grounded in line with the government’s directives.
He said earlier 105 pilots with suspected dubious licences were grounded, but two more were added by June 29. “They are Captain Usman and Captain Baksh Bijrani, vice president of Palpa.”