EU bans Pakistan national airline flights over pilot exam cheats

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The European Union’s aviation safety agency announced today that Pakistan’s national airline would not be allowed to fly into 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’s exams.

Pakistan International Airlines spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said PIA had not been flying to Europe because of the pandemic. But the airline had hoped to resume its flights to Oslo, Copenhagen, Paris, Barcelona and Milan within the next two months.

“It is hurting us really bad,” he said of the pilots scandal.

An inquiry into a 22 May Airbus A320 crash that killed 97 people at the southern port city of Karachi resulted in the revelation that 260 of 860 pilots in Pakistan had cheated during their exams, but were still given licences by the Civil Aviation Authority.

The government has since fired five officials of the regulatory agency and criminal charges are being considered.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said in a letter announcing the ban that it was “concerned about the validity of the 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.”

PIA has grounded 150 pilots for cheating.

Hafeez told the Associated Press in a phone interview today that PIA had alerted the Civil Aviation Authority, the Pakistani regulatory body that issues pilots licences, about its concerns over some of the licenses. In 2019, PIA grounded 17 pilots over concerns about their licences after one of its aircraft skidded off a runway in northern Pakistan.

“The saddest part for PIA is that we had alerted the regulatory agency and the government,” Hafeez said.

He said the national airline would have a difficult time regaining its reputation and said that more than a decade ago PIA was considered one of the better airlines.

Aviation experts fear the ban by the EU could affect PIA flights to the UK and Canada because its aircraft will not be able to fly over Europe, forcing longer routes.

“We have really hit rock bottom I am so sad to say,” said Hafeez.

The Guardian

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