The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has announced today that Pakistan International Airlines would not be allowed to fly to Europe for at least six months after the country ‘s aviation minister revealed that nearly a third of Pakistani pilots had cheated during their pilot tests.
Pakistan International Airlines spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez said that because of the pandemic, PIA has not been flying to Europe. He said the airline had hoped to resume its flights to Oslo, Copenhagen, Paris, Barcelona, and Milan in the next two months.
Hafeez, however, says the pilot scandal has “really hurt us” and added, “We’ve really hit the rock bottom that I’m so sad to say.”
The investigation into an Airbus A320 accident on May 22, which killed 97 people in the southern port city of Karachi, revealed that 260 of the 860 pilots in Pakistan had cheated during their examinations, but were still licensed by Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority.
Since then, the government has fired five officials from the regulatory agency and is reportedly considering criminal charges against them.
In a letter announcing the ban, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency pointed out that it was concerned about the validity of the Pakistani pilot licenses and that Pakistan is currently not capable of certifying and overseeing its operators and aircraft in accordance with applicable international standards.
Hafeez told the Associated Press that PIA had alerted both the civil aviation authority and the Pakistani regulatory authority over concerns of some of its pilot licenses.
In 2019, one of its aircraft skipped off the runway in northern Pakistan, causing PIA to ground 17 pilots over the same licensure concerns.
Hafeez says that it will now be difficult for the national airline to regain its reputation as just over a decade ago, PIA was considered one of the best airlines.
Aviation experts fear that the EU’s ban may have an impact on PIA’s flights to the United Kingdom and Canada, as its aircraft will not be able to fly over Europe, forcing longer routes.
SOURCE: The Guardian
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