EU bans PIA over fake li­cence scam

EASA DECISION IN THE WAKE OF RE­PORTS OF ‘DU­BI­OUS’ PI­LOT LI­CENCES

Gulf News - - FRONT PAGE - BY ASHFAQ AHMED

The Euro­pean Union’s avi­a­tion safety agency said yes­ter­day that Pak­istan’s na­tional air­line will not be al­lowed to fly into Europe for at least six months af­ter the country’s avi­a­tion min­is­ter re­vealed that nearly a third of Pak­istani pi­lots had cheated on their pi­lot’s exams.

Pak­istan In­ter­na­tional Air­lines spokesman Ab­dul­lah Hafeez said PIA has not been fly­ing to Europe be­cause of the pan­demic. But the air­line had hoped to re­sume its flights to Oslo, Copen­hagen, Paris, Barcelona and Mi­lan within the next two months. “It is hurt­ing us re­ally bad,’’ he said of the pi­lots scan­dal.

An in­quiry into a May 22 Air­bus A320 crash that killed 97 peo­ple at the south­ern port city of Karachi re­sulted in the stun­ning rev­e­la­tion that 260 of 860 pi­lots in Pak­istan had cheated on their pi­lots exams, but were still given li­cences by the Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity.

As­sis­tant Editor

Pak­istan In­ter­na­tional Air­lines (PIA) was dealt a ma­jor blow yes­ter­day af­ter Euro­pean na­tions barred it from op­er­at­ing flights to the con­ti­nent for a pe­riod of six months start­ing today.

The Euro­pean Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) an­nounced the decision, the na­tional car­rier’s spokesper­son said.

“EASA has tem­po­rar­ily sus­pended PIA’s au­tho­ri­sa­tion to op­er­ate to the EU mem­ber states for a pe­riod of six months ef­fec­tive July 1, 2020, with the right to ap­peal against this decision,” a PIA state­ment said.

The sus­pen­sion will take ef­fect today at 12 noon. All PIA flights to Europe have been tem­po­rar­ily can­celled.

“Those who have a PIA book­ing can move the date for­ward or get a re­fund,” the spokesper­son said. “We are in touch with the agency and tak­ing steps to ad­dress their con­cern,” he added.

The spokesper­son said that he hoped the sus­pen­sion would end soon due to the steps be­ing taken by the gov­ern­ment and the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Sus­pen­sion of flights to Europe is a big blow to the air­line and it will also ham­per the repa­tri­a­tion process of stranded Pak­ista­nis. The air­line, which is al­ready bleed­ing fi­nan­cially, has come un­der scan­ner af­ter the al­le­ga­tion of hav­ing pi­lots with ‘fake’ fly­ing li­cences. The air­line has al­ready grounded 141 pi­lots with du­bi­ous fly­ing li­cences.

Min­is­ter’s rev­e­la­tion

Pak­istan Avi­a­tion Min­is­ter Ghu­lam Sar­war had ear­lier an­nounced the qual­i­fi­ca­tions of 262 pi­lots in Pak­istan are “du­bi­ous”. The pi­lots in the line of fire in­clude 141 from PIA, nine from Air Blue and 10 from Serene Air­line.

The star­tling rev­e­la­tions of ‘fake pi­lots’ came as the min­is­ter pre­sented the in­terim re­port on the probe into the May 22 PIA plane crash caus­ing death of 97 pas­sen­gers.

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