ISLAMABAD (AP) – The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said on Tuesday that the Pakistani national airline will not be allowed to fly to Europe for at least six months after the aviation minister revealed last week that nearly a third of Pakistani pilots had cheated on their pilots exams.
Abdullah Hafeez, spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines said PIA did not fly to Europe due to the pandemic. But the airline had hoped to resume flights to Oslo, Copenhagen, Paris, Barcelona and Milan within two months.
“It really hurts us,” he said of the pilot scandal.
An investigation into the Airbus A320 crash on May 22 that killed 97 people in the southern port city of Karachi resulted in the astonishing revelation that 260 out of 860 pilots in Pakistan had cheated on their pilot exams, but were still getting permits from the Civil Aviation Authority .
The government has since fired five officials from the regulatory agency and criminal charges are under consideration.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency “is concerned about the validity of Pakistani air permits and that Pakistan, as the state of the operator, is currently unable to certify and verify its operators and aircraft in accordance with the applicable international standards, “said the organization. in her letter announcing the ban.
PIA grounded 150 of its pilots for cheating.
But Hafeez told the Associated Press in a telephone interview on Tuesday that PIA alerted the Civil Aviation Authority, the Pakistani regulatory authority that issues pilot licenses, to its concerns about some of the licenses. In 2019, PIA grounded 17 pilots due to concerns over their licenses after one of the planes hit the runway in Northern Pakistan.
“The saddest thing about PIA is that we warned the regulatory authority and the government,” said Hafeez.
He said the flag carrier will struggle to regain its reputation and said PIA was considered one of the better airlines more than a decade ago.
Aviation experts fear that the European Union ban could also affect PIA flights to the UK and Canada, as its aircraft will be unable to fly across Europe, forcing longer routes.
“We have really hit rock bottom. I am so sad to say,” said Hafeez.
The investigation into the crash of PIA Flight 8303 on May 22 in Karachi blamed the pilot for saying the pilot had landed too low and ignored the control tower warnings and insisted he be up to it.
The plane hit the runway and took off again, but the pilot’s engines were damaged. The investigation also punished the air traffic controller for failing to tell the pilot that the engines had been damaged.
After the missed landing, the aircraft was in the air for 17 minutes before crashing into a busy area on the outskirts of Jinnah International Airport when both engines failed. Two passengers survived and a 13-year-old child on the ground was killed.
According to the voice recorder in the cockpit that was later found among the debris of the plane, the pilots had been talking about the corona virus all flight, which apparently affected their families.
Pakistan’s aviation minister Khan told reporters last week that of the 262 pilots who cheated on their permits, 141 worked for PIA, which employs 450 pilots. That is more than a third of the workforce. The other pilots worked for private airlines.
Jawad reported from Karachi, Pakistan. Jon Gambrell, Associate Press writer in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed.
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