Pilot cheating has to stop at Pakistan’s airlines
In an age when airlines, airline bodies and regulators constantly repeat the mantra that safety is the industry’s number one priority, it is absolutely astounding that a year-long investigation by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) has found 40% of the country’s airline cockpit crew held fake pilot licences. Read More »
Flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) alone has suspended 150 of its cockpit crew pending further investigations after the study was published last month. Overall, 262 out of 860 active Pakistani pilots had not sat the pilot exams themselves. Unfortunately, said minister for aviation, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, pilots also were appointed on a political basis and merit was ignored when employing pilots.
The timing of these revelations could hardly have been worse. On May 22, PIA flight PK8303 crashed into a Lahore suburb shortly after taking off for Karachi, resulting in 97 fatalities. It should be said that a preliminary report on that accident has stated the captain and first officer were adequately qualified and experienced, although their records and documents are under scrutiny.
That aside, it is not the first time Pakistan has found to have underhand dealings involving airline crew. In 2018, PIA sacked 50 employees, including pilots and cabin crew, who were found to be holding fake high school degrees. In Pakistan some carriers only require pilots to send in their licences, hours logs and medical records when applying for a job. All three can easily be faked in a country with an aviation authority clearly wanting when it comes to safety oversight.
Pakistan is not alone in this practice. In 2011, two pilots in India, one from IndiGo Airlines and another from Air India, were arrested for holding fake pilot licences. It is a shocking indictment of an industry that prides itself on operating at the highest levels of safety.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the pilot licence irregularities identified in Pakistan represented a “serious lapse” in safety controls. That is an understatement. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the United Nations body representing global regulators, should take immediate and drastic action to investigate the abuse of professional pilot standards and ensure the PCAA stamps out the practice once and for all.
Associate editor and chief correspondent
Orient Aviation Media Group