Govt bars 262 pilots from flying

Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar on Friday announced that 262 pilots would be barred from flying because their credentials were “dubious”.

The pilots in the line of fire include 141 from Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), 10 from Serene Airline and nine from Air Blue. The rest belong to flying clubs or chartered plane services.

The issue of pilots possessing suspicious licences came to surface when an initial inquiry into a PIA plane crash in Karachi on May 22 was presented before parliament.

“All the airlines and the clubs have been conveyed that the credentials of these pilots are dubious and they shouldn’t be allowed to fly,” the minister said at a news conference.

He said there 860 pilots in the country, 753 pilots serving in local airlines and 107 in foreign ones.

Giving details, Sarwar said of the total number of pilots, 121 were suspected of faking one test result — someone else gave their exam. He added that 49 were suspected of faking two, 21 of faking three, 15 of faking four, 11 of faking five, 11 of faking six, 10 of faking seven, and 34 of faking eight papers, bringing their number to 262.

“The lists of the suspected pilots have been sent to the relevant authorities, including a letter and a list of 141 pilots to PIA’s chief executive, instructing him to bar them from further flying.”

Sarwar maintained that nine of 28 pilots being investigated for suspicious licences had “confessed” and their licenses would be cancelled after approval from the federal cabinet. He pointed out that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) issued licences but only the federal government could cancel them.

“It’s safe to say that all these 28 pilots have fake licences and the matter is being further investigated.”

The minister said the pilots under investigation were inducted before 2018. “After 2018 we have not hired anyone in the aviation division,” he claimed, defending the PTI government.

“Some people are saying that we will face criticism due to these investigations. We have started making reforms and are rectifying the faults.”

The minister pointed out that during the last government’s tenure, the then chief justice, taking a suo motu notice, had ordered that the degrees of PIA employees should be verified.

“When the process was initiated, it was found that 648 people — including 129 cabinet crew members, 16 from the cockpit, 98 from engineering, and 415 from general administration — were found to have fake degrees.”

Sarwar also said PIA’s current fleet constituted 31 planes, a number the ministry was looking to considerably increase. “We aim to take it to 45 after inducting new pilots and buying more planes.”

The minister also announced that five CAA officials had been suspended for their involvement in the issuing of fake licences.

They include Senior Joint Director Licensing Asiful Haq, Senior Joint Director Licensing Faisal Mansoor Ansari, Senior Superintendent Human Resource Abdul Raees, Assistant Grade 2 Administrator Khalid Javed and Assistant Grade 2 Administrator Syed Adeel Aftab.

“The ministry is consulting with its law department over the possibility of asking the Federal Investigation Agency to initiate a criminal inquiry against them [the CAA officials.”

Earlier, the PIA clarified that the issue of dubious licences did not pertain to the national carrier alone.

“Let it be on record, these licenses were issued by the competent authority and are valid as per their records,” the airline said in a tweet.

It added that it was the process and discrepancies through which they were obtained that triggered an inquiry by the government and the subsequent action.

On Thursday, the PIA had announced that would be grounding nearly 150 out of its 426 pilots amid the inquiry into dubious licences.

The aviation minister had also said on Wednesday that 262 pilots out of total 860 in the country had suspicious flying licences and they would be grounded immediately.

Related posts