Pakistan’s national airline has written to foreign missions and regulatory bodies, assuring them it has grounded 141 pilots suspected of obtaining licenses through unfair means, the carrier’s spokesman has said. The move is an attempt to assuage safety concerns after Pakistan’s aviation minister, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, said on Friday the government had asked various commercial airlines, flying clubs and charter companies to ground 262 pilots until investigations in to their qualifications are completed. The action was prompted by a preliminary report on the crash of a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) aircraft in Karachi last month, which found pilots had failed to follow standard procedures, according to The Guardian.
Khan did not clarify if the two pilots on flight PK 8303 held fake licenses. According to the report, the pilots were chatting about the coronavirus and repeatedly ignored warnings from air traffic controllers before the plane went down in a residential area near the airport. “The pilots were discussing corona throughout the flight. They were not focused. They talked about the coronavirus and how their families were affected,” Khan said, adding that the pilots were “overconfident.” According to Khan, the pilots were told three times by air traffic controllers that the plane was too high and they should not attempt to land, “but the captain did not pay any heed to these instructions,” CNN Business wrote.
Aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan shared the findings of an initial report into May’s crash on Wednesday, but also referred to a wider government probe, which had been launched after a different crash. Following the 2018 crash, it was discovered that the test date on the pilot’s licence was a public holiday, suggesting that testing could not have taken place on that day
“We are following reports from Pakistan regarding fake pilot licenses, which are concerning and represent a serious lapse in the licensing and safety oversight by the aviation regulator. We are trying to obtain more information on the matter,” the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said in a statement on Friday. Seventeen pilots were suspended in January 2019 over similar allegations following a probe into an air crash in the southwestern Pakistani town of Panjgur – where a plane carrying 43 passengers careered off the runway after making an unsafe approach – said Khan. No one was injured in that incident, Al Jazeera wrote.
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