Pakistan: PIA suspends 150 Pilots due to fake license fraud
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) announced yesterday that it has suspended 150 pilots after suspicions arose over the authenticity of their licenses. The airline’s decision came after the preliminary findings of a probe into the PIA plane crash that killed 98 people in southern Pakistan on May 22nd that held the pilots responsible.
Abdullah Hafeez, a spokesman for PIA, told AFP that a government probe last year had found that 150 of its 434 pilots were carrying fake or suspicious licenses. He added that a process to fire the pilots had been initiated.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which must be undoubtedly concerned by these revelations, has said that it is following the reports from Pakistan regarding the dubious pilot licenses.
The findings were presented in parliament on Wednesday by Pakistan’s Aviation Minister, Ghulam Sarwar Khan.
While giving his report, he told parliament that more than 30% of civilian commercial pilots in Pakistan have fake licenses and are not fully qualified to fly passenger planes. In terms of numbers, this means that 262 of Pakistan’s 860 currently active pilots have been found to have dubious licenses.
Hours after the report was made public by the aviation minister, PIA released a statement on Twitter stating that all pilots with suspicious licenses will be grounded. The airline said that safety is more important than any commercial interest.
The carrier has also highlighted that this problem does not pertain to it alone. The competent authorities issued the licenses and they are valid according to their records. The airline said that an inquiry into the licenses will be examining the process through which they were obtained.
This isn’t the first time that PIA has dismissed pilots for faking their academic achievements. In 2019, several pilots had been dismissed for having false qualifications. The investigation at the time found that pilots were not the only crew members holding false degrees. An alarming number of employees had fake qualifications, and disciplinary actions were taken.
Seventeen pilots were suspended in January 2019 over similar allegations following a probe into an air crash in the southwestern Pakistani town of Panjgur – where a plane carrying 43 passengers careered off the runway after making an unsafe approach – said Khan. No one was injured in that incident.
Pakistan’s aviation authorities have been probing allegations of fake pilot qualifications in Pakistan since 2018. The wider government probe was launched after an investigation into a crash in 2018. The inquiry found that the test date on the pilot’s license was a public holiday suggesting that the test could not have possibly taken place that day.
This latest revelation is bound to have adverse effects on the reputation of an airline that already has a poor safety record.