After fatal May 22 crash, Pakistan grounds 262 pilots on suspicion of license fraud

With initial investigations into the cause of crash involving a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Airbus A320 near Karachi on May 22 which killed 97 of the 99 passengers and crew on board, and one civilian on the ground, primarily being put down to pilot error,  Pakistan’s Aviation minister, Ghulam Sarwar Khan announced on June 26 that 262 pilots have had their licenses suspended under suspicion that they may not have personally taken the compulsory written exams.

In 2012 Pakistan introduced its current examination system to meet international standards, written papers which still had to be taken by already qualified pilots. With the fear of failing these exams, a number of pilots are believed to have had someone else sit some, or all eight of these exams on their behalf. There has been an ongoing investigation, which began in 2018, into collusion between pilots and civil aviation authorities. It is believed that certain pilots had resorted to illegal means, bribing someone at the civil aviation body or using political influence to have someone to sit their papers, according to officials.

The 2018 enquiry began as a result of a crash that year after which it was discovered that the pilot’s test date provided on their license was actually a national holiday and therefore it was unlikely the test could have been taken that day. In early 2019, 16 PIA pilots had their licenses suspended as a result of early investigations.  According to Khan, the 262 pilots grounded on June 26 pending conclusion of inquiries against them included 141 from PIA, nine from Air Blue, 10 from Serene Airline, and 17 from Shaheen Airlines, adding that they included 109 commercial and 153 airline transport pilots.

It is believed that Vietnam has grounded 27 Pakistani pilots until their licenses have been reviewed, while Kuwait Airlines has suspended seven pilots and 56 engineers and ground handling staff.

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