ISLAMABAD/KARACHI • Pakistan’s national airline has written to foreign missions and global regulatory and safety bodies, assuring them that it has grounded all 141 pilots suspected of obtaining licences through unfair means, the carrier’s spokesman has said.
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) last week said it would immediately ground 141 of its 434 pilots after a government review found them to have obtained “bogus” credentials or cheated on exams.
The scandal comes in the wake of a crash in Karachi last month that killed 98 people – and which the authorities have blamed on the two pilots who had been found to have failed to follow standard procedures and disregarded alarms.
The move looks to assuage concerns after Pakistan’s Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said last Friday that the government had asked various commercial airlines, flying clubs and charter companies to ground a total of 262 pilots until investigations into their qualifications were completed.
Pakistan Air Line Pilots’ Association last Saturday questioned the authenticity of the list and called on the judiciary to intervene and investigate the matter, instead of the government, to ensure transparency.
Global safety and transport bodies expressed concern about the alleged “dubious” licences and said they were looking into the matter.
PIA flies a number of international routes, including to the United States, Britain and Europe.
The letter, signed by PIA chief executive Arshad Malik, promised the airline would remain compliant with all international aviation safety and regulatory standards.
“It also ensured that all pilots flying PIA flights are having genuine licences endorsed by the government of Pakistan,” said a copy of the letter sent to the US embassy in Islamabad that is seen by Reuters.
PIA’s spokesman last Saturday said the letter had been sent to all heads of foreign missions in Pakistan as well as international aviation regulators and safety monitoring agencies.
Mr Khan had said the move to ground the pilots would help allay global concerns and show wrongdoing had been corrected. He said five officials from the aviation authority had been suspended for abetting the suspected pilots.
In a joint statement, the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations and the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations called for the crash probe to be conducted along international standards, urging against “premature conclusions” based on incomplete or speculative information.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE