In its ongoing bid to solve pilot safety issues, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has cleared the licenses of 110 pilots. The carrier said 110 of the 141 suspended pilots have had their licenses checked and can now fly again. However, 29 pilots also saw their licenses canceled or were deemed unfit to fly by the airline.
The current probe began in the aftermath of the crash of flight PK8303 in late May. The PIA A320 crashed into a residential area in Karachi after a failed landing attempt. Investigations revealed that possibly hundreds of PIA pilots were either flying on fake licenses or had cheated in the training process.
The news of fake licenses quickly prompted the European Union’s aviation regulation, EASA, to ban flights from PIA. The US’s FAA and others also quickly downgraded the carrier’s safety rating in the eyes of this scandal.
For its part, PIA has been engaged in a months-long investigation to find corruption and verify its pilot’s licenses. In August, the airline sacked 63 pilots for their fake pilot credentials and fired 54 more for various other issues.
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This week’s news that PIA has cleared some of its pilots to fly will be a relief to the beleaguered carrier. According to Dawn, lawyers for the airline told the Supreme Court that of the 141 pilots who were suspended at the time, 110 have had their licenses cleared. Verification likely means that these pilots are now considered fit to fly.
However, lawyers also informed the court that action had been taken against some more pilots. Flying licenses have been canceled for 15 pilots, while 14 pilots have been declared unfit to fly. A few pilots are still in the review process.
Return to Europe?
The decision to ban PIA from Europe has had a significant impact on the airline’s bottom line. Countries such as the UK and France are popular destinations from Pakistan, with the ban hurting revenue in an already difficult year.
While the original ban from July 1st was only set to last for six months, EASA further extended the ban this month. According to Mint, EASA continues to have concerns over pilot training and safety measures being undertaken by the government while issuing licenses. It’s unknown when PIA could return to EU skies, but the timeline could as long as a few years.
While PIA might be banned from flying to the EU, other carriers have leaped at the opportunity to fill the gap. Virgin Atlantic inaugurated its new Manchester-Islamabad service in early December, it’s first Pakistani destination. British Airways has also ramped up operations in the country, adding flights to Lahore, its second destination in the country.
What do you think about the PIA fake licenses investigation? Will the carrier return to EU skies soon? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!