Threat of Omani airspace ban looms over PIA

A threat of a ban on Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flights in the airspace of Oman looms large as the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) assured them that credentials of all pilots had been scrutinized to ensure flight safety.
While expressing concern over the recent safety issue with the PIA, the Omani Civil Aviation Authority warned Pakistan that the national flag carrier could be barred from using its airspace, sources said.
They added that the Omani authorities also asked Islamabad to explain what curative measures had been taken to ensure safety of flights.
Earlier, the European Union Air Safety Agency suspended PIA authorization to operate to the EU member states 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.
The Pakistan CAA explained to the Omani Civil Aviation Authority that credentials of all pilots, who were allowed to fly, had been scrutinized before they had been declared fit to fly, the sources said.
The Omani authorities were further informed that the scrutiny of pilots was initiated by the Pakistani authorities on the directive of the Supreme Court of Pakistan a couple of years ago, the sources explained.
“As the PTI government came into power, the process of scrutiny was paced up but our pilot licenses are never faked. Sometimes there are only validity issues. There had been anomaly in the examinations after which those pilots were grounded in the light of a forensic report,” a source said, adding that all the PIA pilots who continued to fly aircraft had been cleared after scrutiny and they all were well-experienced.
Amid the aviation crisis, seven other countries where Pakistani pilots had been employed with different airlines had asked Islamabad to verify their credentials.
Meanwhile, the commercial flying license of 28 Pakistani pilots have been cancelled. They had been traced to have ‘dubious’ licenses in 2018. After legal formalities, they would be terminated from service by the airline.
Of the 262 ‘dubious’ license holders, 34 pilots had been suspended by the aviation division. Twenty four other pilots were suspended on July 11, while sources said 30 to 40 pilots were expected to be suspended within the next few days.
Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan’s announcement in June of the grounding of 262 airline pilots suspected of dodging their exams had caused global concern. The minister said the pilots included 141 from PIA, nine from Air Blue, 10 from Serene Air, and 17 from Shaheen Airlines.
According to sources, the CAA had already cleared credentials of 142 Pakistani pilots employed in different countries and sent confirmations to the aviation authorities of those seven countries, including Malaysia.
“CAAM is pleased to inform that Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) has been very cooperative in our request on the verification of the Pakistani pilot licence holders who are currently employed in Malaysia. So far, less than 20 names have been sent to PCAA and those pilot license holders have been verified by PCAA to be valid licences,” a public relations officer at CAAM said.
Besides the CAAM, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia had also asked the Pakistan government to verify the license of five Pakistani pilots serving there. All the five Pakistani pilots employed in Ethiopia had been cleared by the Pakistan CAA.
Some Pakistani pilots have also been serving with different airlines in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Oman.
A senior official of the CAA said that all the requests that Islamabad received till Monday for verification of Pakistani pilots’ licenses had been fulfilled. All the pilots working in those countries had been cleared, the official said, adding that the verification of those pilots serving in Pakistan would be completed within one week.