PIA Passes Safety Audit After Pilot License Scandal

Pakistani flag carrier PIA has successfully passed a Canadian safety audit initiated after the discovery that several pilots had been flying for the airline on fake credentials. The carrier has, in the interim, been allowed to operate certain flights into Canada in order to facilitate repatriation flights.

Pakistan International Airlines Getty
Canada no longer has any doubts about the safety of PIA’s operations. Photo: Getty Images

No more reservations

The audit of PIA’s operations was conducted between August and September 2020. However, the letter from Canada’s Transport Canada’s Safety Validation and Airworthiness Audit Desk, which will allow the airline to operate more freely, was only released on Wednesday, August 11th, 2021. The letter states that the Desk no longer has any reservations pertaining to the flight safety and operations of the Pakistani national airline.

The investigation came about as a result of a scandal unfolding in the wake of the deadly crash of Pakistan International Airlines Flight 8303 in May 2020. Following the accident that cost the lives of 98 people – including one person on the ground – it came to light that as much as 40% of PIA’s cockpit crew was in possession of ‘dubious licenses’.

Embarking on a mission to rebuild the airline’s reputation and come to terms with underlying, systemic issues, PIA purged its rosters. It immediately suspended all the pilots whose credentials could not be verified and proceeded to fire more employees found guilty of bribery and smuggling.

Pakistan International Airlines Airbus A32
PIA fired a number of employees in the wake of a deadly crash in May 2020. Photo: Getty Images

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Operating thrice-weekly to Toronto

Meanwhile, IATA’s evaluation system, the Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), has issued an Operator’s Licence to PIA valid until 2023. As previously stated, Canada has permitted PIA to operate select flights to facilitate repatriation between the two countries.

Since the lifting of restrictions barring all direct flights from Pakistan to Canada in June, PIA has been operating three weekly flights from Karachi to Toronto Pearson. Ottawa introduced the ban in February to help combat a rising spike of COVID-19 infections linked to international travel.

Pakistan International Airlines 777-200ER
The EASA is awaiting the ICAO’s safety audit of Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority. Photo: Getty Images

The EU awaiting ICAO audit

The European Union and the United Kingdom, however, are still unconvinced. The ban on all Pakistan-registered aircraft from European airspace instituted in July 2020 remains firmly in place. The EASA has extended the suspension for an indefinite period, linking its resolution to the ongoing safety audit the ICAO is conducting of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of Pakistan – which may or may not take place before the end of the year.

Pakistani media outlet Dawn recently quoted the CAA’s General Director, Khaqan Murtaza as saying,

“We are working with ICAO…their visit to Pakistan was planned for July but it was postponed because of (Covid-19) pandemic, etc. We hope their visit would take place somewhere in October or November if the pandemic situation in the country gets improved.”

Do you think the EU should allow Pakistani airlines back into its airspace? Why, or why not? Leave a comment below and let us know.