Pakistan's national airline has grounded 150 pilots after an investigation into the Karachi crash highlighted exam cheating and fake flying licenses
Security personnel stand next to the wreckage of a plane on the site after a Pakistan International Airlines plane crashed in a residential area in Karachi on May 24, 2020.
Asif Hassan / AFP via Getty Images
Pakistan International Airlines has ground a third of its pilots because of "dubious licenses".
More than 30% of commercial airline pilots in Pakistan have fake licenses, the country's minister of aviation said this week.
The shocking revelation came when a preliminary official report blamed the pilot mistake for a crash in May that killed 98 people near Karachi.
The Pakistani Aviation Minister said the pilot and copilot were "out of focus" because "they are having a conversation about corona."
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On Thursday, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the national airline, landed 150 of its 434 pilots whom it said had "dubious licenses".
It came when the Pakistani aviation industry underwent an intensive review after the country's Minister of Aviation informed Parliament that 30% of the pilots in the country had wrong qualifications or were cheated during their exams.
Corrupt practices regarding pilot qualifications were highlighted in a preliminary government report released this week during a crash in Karachi in May that killed 98 people.
According to Geo News, a Pakistani news agency, PIA was mass fired after six pilots with fake degrees had previously been fired.
In a statement posted on Twitter, the airline said: "Doubtful licenses do not only refer to PIA. It is on record, these licenses were issued by the competent authority and were valid according to their records."
Doubtful pilot licenses do not only apply to PIA. It is on record that these licenses have been issued by the competent authority and are valid according to their files. It is the process and discrepancies through which they were obtained that triggered GoP & Action's request.
11:37 PM - June 25, 2020
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The international aviation authorities were also concerned about the situation in Pakistan.
A spokesman for the International Air Transport Association (IATA) told Reuters. "We are following reports from Pakistan about counterfeit pilot licenses that affect the aviation authority's licensing and security oversight and are a serious error."
According to Reuters, Pakistan's pilot qualification investigation started after a crash in 2018. It turned out that a pilot was on vacation on the test date of his license, which strongly suggested that it was a fake.
Another pilot had been out of the country on the date stated on his ticket.
According to the preliminary report on the Karachi crash in May, the PIA pilots made a number of mistakes during the landing attempt, including the failure to lower the landing gear.
24-year-old Mohammad Zubair, a survivor of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane crash, rests at his home in Karachi on June 24, 2020.
Asif Hassan / AFP via Getty Images
The Airbus A320 was traveling from the eastern city of Lahore to Karachi when it crashed into residential buildings while trying to land and killed all but two people on board. A child on the ground was also killed.
Many passengers on the flight were on their way to Karachi to spend the Eid al-Fitr family vacation because they were banned for two months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Pakistan's Minister of Aviation, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, told Parliament on Wednesday that the plane was more than double the first time it approached the runway.
Despite the warnings from the air traffic controllers to circle for a gradual descent, the pilots tried to land anyway, Khan said. He said they forgot to lower the landing gear while doing so.
Khan said as the plane approached, his engines scratched the runway and sparked. He said air traffic control saw this but did not inform the cockpit.
The engines were badly damaged by the impact and failed when the pilots attempted a second landing, Khan said. The plane then crashed into a nearby residential area.
Khan said, "The pilot and the co-pilot were not focused and had a conversation about corona throughout the conversation. The [virus] was in their thoughts. Their families were affected and they had a discussion about it."
"When the control tower told the pilot about the dangerous altitude of the aircraft, the pilot said 'I'll make it' and the pilots discussed coronavirus again," he said. "There was overconsciousness."
The pilot, Captain Sajjad Gul, was very experienced, Khan said. He said the plane had no flaws and was "100% airworthy".
"The crash was Pakistan's deadliest aviation accident in eight years. It damaged 29 homes, but the minister promised the government would compensate residents for their losses.
A spokesman for the Pakistan Airline Pilots Association described the results of the report as "stunning", according to the Guardian. "How could that happen? It just confuses me," he said. "The biggest pilots with the best records made mistakes. People make mistakes."
A full report, which will include a more in-depth analysis of the debris, is expected to be released later this year.
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