The European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) banned Pakistan’s national flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines, due to “safety concerns,” barring the airline from operating in all EU airports and airspace.
Beginning July 1, 2020, the EASA ordered the suspension of PIA for at least six months, with the right to appeal the decision. In a four-page resolution, the agency said the suspension might be extended for three more months if it “is satisfied that successful corrective action has been taken.”
“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,” the airline said.
The recent ruling would force the Pakistani airline to discontinue, at least temporarily, all of its flights to EU member states. PIA has only recently reactivated flights after a lengthy hibernation period amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
EASA also mentioned about the “dubious” pilot licenses given by Pakistani authorities over the years. According to the report, one of the suspension grounds is the recent discovery of fraudulent pilot licenses; of the 860 licenses, 260 of which are fake.
“Based on this information, EASA is concerned about the validity of Pakistani pilot licenses and that Pakistan, as the State of operator, is currently not capable to certify and oversee its operators and aircraft in accordance with applicable international standards,” the decision reads.
Pakistan Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said last week 262 pilots in the country failed to take the exams personally and had paid someone to sit in. Out of the 262 “suspicious cases,” 109 held Commercial Pilot Licenses while another 153 held Air Transport Pilot Licenses.
Most of these pilots, 141 of them, flew with PIA. Pakistani aviation authorities have already taken action against these fraudulent cases in what appears to be a significant aviation safety flaw in the country.
In March this year, a PIA Airbus A320-214 crashed short of Karachi airport after attempting a second approach. Flight PK-8303 from Lahore had 91 passengers and eight crew members; only the two passengers survived while some fatalities on the ground were reported.
The preliminary findings of the crash now paint a clearer picture of what happened inside the cockpit and the country’s state of aviation safety. Pakistani’s Aviation Minister also said both the ATC and the pilots faulted in several aspects. He said the pilots were distracted by the coronavirus and were not focused on flying the aircraft.