PIA Suspends 150 Pilots Due To Fake License Fraud

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) announced yesterday that it has suspended 150 pilots after suspicions arose over the authenticity of their licenses. The airline’s decision came after the preliminary findings of a probe into the PIA crash in Karachi on May 22nd held the pilots responsible.

Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 777
Pakistan International Airlines is again troubled by allegations of pilots holding fake qualifications. Photo: Getty Images

Falsifying qualifications

Pakistan’s state-run airline has grounded 150 pilots following allegations that the pilots held fake licenses or cheated on their licensing exams. The pilots are accused of paying others to sit the tests on their behalf. PIA has given no additional details about the alleged cheating.

The move comes following the release of the preliminary findings into last month’s crash that killed 97 people in Karachi. The findings were presented in parliament on Wednesday by Pakistan’s Aviation Minister, Ghulam Sarwar Khan.

While giving his report, he told parliament that more than 30% of civilian commercial pilots in Pakistan have fake licenses and are not fully qualified to fly passenger planes. In terms of numbers, this means that 262 of Pakistan’s 860 currently active pilots have been found to have dubious licenses.

PIA crash Karachi
A Pakistan International Airlines Airbus A320 crashed in Karachi last month. Photo: Getty Images

Abdullah Hafeez, a spokesman for PIA, told AFP that a government probe last year had found that 150 of its 434 pilots were carrying fake or suspicious licenses. He added that a process to fire the pilots had been initiated.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which must be undoubtedly concerned by these revelations, has said that it is following the reports from Pakistan regarding the dubious pilot licenses.

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National problem

PIA acknowledges that fake licenses is not just a PIA issue but spread across the entire Pakistani airline industry,” PIA spokesperson Abdullah Khan said in a report to CNN.

Hours after the report was made public by the aviation minister, PIA released a statement on Twitter stating that all pilots with suspicious licenses will be grounded. The airline said that safety is more important than any commercial interest.

The carrier has also highlighted that this problem does not pertain to it alone. The competent authorities issued the licenses and they are valid according to their records. The airline said that an inquiry into the licenses will be examining the process through which they were obtained.

PIA Boeing 777-200
Pakistan aviation has a concerning safety record. Could unqualified pilots be the reason why? Photo: Getty Images

Recurring issue

This isn’t the first time that PIA has dismissed pilots for faking their academic achievements. In 2019, we reported that several pilots had been dismissed for having false qualifications. The investigation at the time found that pilots were not the only crew members holding false degrees. An alarming number of employees had fake qualifications, and disciplinary actions were taken. 

Pakistan’s aviation authorities have been probing allegations of fake pilot qualifications in Pakistan since 2018. The wider government probe was launched after an investigation into a crash in 2018. The inquiry found that the test date on the pilot’s license was a public holiday suggesting that the test could not have possibly taken place that day.

This latest revelation is bound to have adverse effects on the reputation of an airline that already has a poor safety record.

What do you think of the latest PIA scandal? Let us know in the comments.