EASA Bans PIA From Operating In Europe Amid Pilot Scandal

EASA has today imposed a temporary ban on Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), preventing it from flying in Europe for six months. The suspension of authorization becomes effective from July 1 and follows the grounding of Pakistani pilots with dubious licenses.

PIA Boeing 777-200
PIA faces six-month suspension from flying in Europe. Photo: Getty Images

Six-month ban from Europe for PIA

A Reuters report on June 30 says that the European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) has suspended PIA’s authorization for operating in Europe for six months. In a statement today, the airline said that PIA would temporarily discontinue all of its flights to Europe. It added,

“EASA has temporarily suspended PIA’s authorization to operate to the EU member states for a period of 6 months effective July 1, 2020 with the right to appeal against this decision.”

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The ban comes after the grounding of 262 Pakistani pilots after a government investigation revealed their licenses were fake, and they were not qualified to fly.

The move has added to the woes of Pakistani travelers. On Monday, the United Arab Emirates announced that it was suspending flights from Pakistan in the wake of its worsening COVID-19 situation.

PIA pilots found to have fake licenses. Photo: Getty Images

Pakistani pilot scandal

CNN reported last week that Pakistan’s aviation minister, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, had addressed the country’s National Assembly, saying that over 30% of Pakistan’s civilian pilots had fake licenses and were not qualified to fly. He said,

“. . . 262 pilots in the country did not take the exam themselves and had paid someone else to sit it on their behalf. They don’t have flying experience.”  He added, PIA has grounded all its pilots who hold fake licenses, effective immediately.

Pakistan’s domestic airlines, including flag carrier PIA, have 860 active pilots, and others are serving with foreign airlines.

PIA sent a letter to the government on Friday saying that 141 of its 450 pilots have “suspicious licenses” and wouldn’t be “utilized for any flying duties.”

The investigation that revealed the scandal was part of a preliminary report into the PIA flight that crashed in Karachi, killing 97 people. Mr Khan didn’t clarify whether or not the pilots of the ill-fated aircraft held genuine licenses.

PIA crash Karachi
Just two people survived the crash. Photo: Getty Images

Were the pilots of crashed PIA flight qualified?

The preliminary report into the crash of PIA flight PK8303 seems to suggest that pilot error was a significant factor. The pilots ignored repeated warnings from air traffic control before the aircraft crashed into a residential area of Karachi. Aviation Minister, Mr Khan, said,

“The pilots were discussing corona throughout the flight. They were not focused. They talked about the coronavirus and how their families were affected,” He added that the pilots were “overconfident.”

Air traffic controllers told the pilots three times that they were too high and shouldn’t attempt to land. Not only did they ignore the warnings and proceed to land, but they did so without lowering the landing gear!

The aircraft touched down with its engines scrubbing the runway. The pilots managed to pull the plane back in the air, but the engines were irreparably damaged and caused the plane to crash.