KARACHI: In what appears to be a direct contradiction to the aviation minister’s allegation that almost 40 per cent of Pakistani pilots possessed ‘fake licences’, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has said that all commercial/airline transport pilots licences (CPL/ATPL) it issued “are genuine and validly issued”.
“It is important to clarify that all CPL/ATPL pilot licences issued by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority are genuine and validly issued. None of the pilot licences are fake, rather the matter has been misconstrued and incorrectly highlighted in the media/social media,” wrote CAA Director General Hassan Nasir Jamy in a letter dated July 13 to a high-ranking aviation official of Oman.
The letter, a copy of which is provided to Dawn, was addressed to Mubarak Saleh Al Gheilani, the acting DG of Civil Aviation Regulation, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, in response to his July 2 letter and July 9 email with regard to safety concerns over licences of Pakistani pilots working with his country’s airline.
Mr Jamy, who is also the secretary of aviation division, told the Omani official that the CAA had already verified/cleared “96 Pakistani pilots out of 104 names received from various civil aviation authorities/foreign airlines (UAE/GACA, Vietnam Airlines, Bahrain Air, Civil Aviation Malaysia, Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department and Turkish Airlines)”.
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Regulator’s confirmation contradicts aviation minister’s claim about ‘fake licences’; Palpa terms development an endorsement of its stance
Last month, while furnishing before the National Assembly a preliminary report on the May 22 Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane crash in Karachi, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan had claimed that 40 per cent of the country’s pilots held “fake licences”.
He later said that 262 airlines’ pilots had falsified their credentials and of them 141 belonged to the PIA, nine from Air Blue and 10 from Serene Air. The remaining pilots were affiliated with flying clubs, chartered plane services or foreign airlines, he said.
The CAA suspended the licences of only 34 pilots of the PIA and issued them a show-cause notice to explain as to how they performed flying duty and appeared in a written exam on a same date.
However, Mr Jamy tried to downplay the damning statement of the aviation minister when he stated in his letter that “some concerns” were raised about the validity of the licences of “some pilots”. “The federal government immediately took notice and embarked upon the process of verifying the credentials of all licensed pilots through a forensic scrutiny,” he stated.
“During this process, it occurred that there were discrepancies pertaining to the computer-based examination, which is one of the steps in the licensing process. Immediately upon completion of the process, the pilots falling in this category were treated as ‘suspects’ till clearance. They were taken off from flying duties, if any, and were grounded pending formal process, after providing them opportunity to explain their position,” he explained.
“Pakistan has always maintained a strong regulatory oversight mechanism for safety of skies all over. It has been ensured that only those pilots and aircrew with valid qualification, credentials and unblemished record shall be allowed to fly. I hope this letter is convincing evidence of Pakistan’s continued commitment towards aviation safety. It is highlighted that as a responsible regulator we have voluntarily raised the subject matter,” Mr Jamy added.
A CAA official said that several similar letters were written to civil aviation authorities and airlines of different countries to control the damage the aviation minister’s statement had caused.
Palpa stance vindicated
The Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (Palpa) said on Wednesday that the CAA’s letter in which it admitted that the ATPL licence of any pilot in Pakistan was neither dubious nor fake was an endorsement of their stance.
“The whole episode has caused damage to the reputation of the nation, its airline and its pilots worldwide,” Palpa secretary Imran Narejo said in a statement.
He said the issue of licences had been mishandled by the aviation minister, PIA management and CAA, which proved very damaging for the pilots of the national airline as well as others working at the international level.
The issue of ‘fake’ licences drew world attention after the aviation minister’s statement last month and the European Union Air Safety Agency suspended PIA authorisation to operate to the EU member states for six months, while the International Air Transport Association (IATA) also shared its concern over the serious lapse in the licensing and safety oversight by the aviation regulator.
The US Department of Transportation had also revoked permission for the PIA to conduct charter flights to the United States.
According to Reuters, the US Federal Aviation Administration also downgraded Pakistan’s air safety rating after the agency raised concerns about pilot certifications.