The United Nations issued a stiff directive prohibiting its staff from flying in as many 14 Pakistani airlines including flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) which were in the news due to pilot license scandal wherein a lot many pilots were found to be flying with fake flying licenses. As a part of the ban, Pakistani airlines have been forced to suspend flying to 188 countries.
The list of Pakistan based Airlines specifically mentioned in the UN directive included: Air Eagle, Air Indus, Air Blue, Aircraft Sales and Services, Askari Aviation, Hawk Adventure Air, Hybrid Aviation, IAMC Airline, Meezab Aviation, Rayyan Air, Serene Air, Star Air Aviation and Vision Air International.
“Due to an ongoing investigation of the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) Pakistan…due to dubious licenses caution is advised on the use of Pakistan-registered air operators,” the UN advisory issued by the UN Security Management System (UNSMS) read.
Surprisingly the cat was let off the bag by none other than the Pakistan Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan himself who dropped a bombshell on the floor of the National Assembly by stating that almost one out of every three Pakistani pilots did not take the exam and instead paid someone else to sit it on their behalf. They also did not have the required experience and were flying with fake flying licenses in their pocket.
Adding fuel to fire Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) went on to suspend 150 out of 434 pilots who were not qualified to fly and were suspected to be holding suspicious licenses. Significantly fake licenses are not just a PIA issue even other Pakistani airlines were forced to ground many of their pilots – and suffer massive loss of revenue because of erosion of confidence in the minds of the general public.
By virtue of this order, the UN officials working for all the UN agencies like the UN Development Programme (UNDP), World Health Organization (WHO), UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have been prohibited from flying on Pakistan-registered carriers even domestically.
As a spinoff, the European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) has recommended suspension of the licenses of all Pakistan-qualified pilots working in its staff and banned Pakistan owned aircraft from flying in EU airspace for at least six months. Moving a step further the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ordered downgrading the PIA’s rating to Category 2 and disallowing it from flying to new routes in future.
This is not all as within days of the list being released, civil aviation regulators in at least 10 countries including the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Malaysia, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Bahrain, Turkey and Hong Kong, grounded pilots holding Pakistani licenses and asked the PCAA to verify their credentials.
This news raised a big storm in the aviation circles worldwide considering the fact that there are nearly 860 Pakistan pilots serving in various domestic and international airlines.
Significantly Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority has decided not to contest the EU ban. This has unlocked a plethora of possibilities for airlines like Virgin Atlantic which have expanded their fleet and area of operation catering to the unmet demand for domestic and international air travel in Pakistan.
There are around fifteen (15) pilot schools in Pakistan. Anyone wanting to join as a pilot in Pakistan has to go through the following stages:
Student Pilot License (SPL) – This is the first and foremost pilot training license that you need to obtain to start your flight training.
Private Pilot License (PPL) – This license allows you to fly solo, or transport passengers, or cargo – without any monetary compensation.
Commercial Pilot License (CPL) –The commercial pilot license allows you to earn from flying as a paid professional pilot.
Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) – TheATPL is the highest Aircraft Pilot Certificate that allows you to act as a pilot in command on scheduled air carriers.
In addition to the above:
Instrument Rating (IR) – means that you can fly the aircraft in any weather condition or low visibility just using the navigation and landing instruments.
Multi-Engine Rating (MER) – The multi-engine rating means you have the skill and experience to fly multi-engine aircraft.
As things stand the Pakistani airlines have a dismal safety record. Pakistan has had a troubled aircraft safety record, with five major commercial or charter airliner crashes in the last decade alone, killing 445 people. Apart from this, there have been numerous non-fatal safety incidents like engines shutting down mid-air or on takeoff, landing gear failure, runway overruns and collisions.
One of the reasons behind PIA’s shoddy state of affairs is because of interference by serving and retired Pakistani Air Force officials for their narrow, selfish interest.
On May 22, a PIA Airbus A320 crashed into a residential neighbourhood in Karachi killing 97 out of 99 people on board as well as one person on the ground. No wonder Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) ranks number 5 on the list of dangerous airlines in the world.