Pakistan airline suspends 150 pilots over alleged licence fraud

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Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has suspended 150 pilots after questions over the authenticity of their licences emerged, a spokesman informed Al Jazeera.

The announcement comes a day after an preliminary investigation discovered human error was primarily accountable for a PIA airplane crash that killed 98 individuals in southern Pakistan final month.

“Out of our 434 pilots, 150 will be grounded as of today,” PIA spokesman Abdullah Khan informed Al Jazeera by phone from Karachi, the place the crash happened on May 22.

“It will totally cripple us. But we cannot take risks with this.”

Thursday’s suspensions will stay till investigations might be carried out to confirm the authenticity of the pilots’ licences. The airline will primarily look into allegations that the pilots didn’t sit for the examinations themselves and despatched others as a substitute.

“We are following reports from Pakistan regarding fake pilot licenses, which are concerning and represent a serious lapse in the licensing and safety oversight by the aviation regulator. We are trying to obtain more information on the matter,” the International Air Transport Association (IATA) stated in a press release on Friday.

Seventeen pilots had been suspended in January 2019 over related allegations following a probe into an air crash within the southwestern Pakistani city of Panjgur – the place a airplane carrying 43 passengers careered off the runway after making an unsafe approach – stated Khan. No one was injured in that incident.

On Wednesday, Pakistani aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan informed Parliament that 262 of Pakistan’s 860 lively, licensed pilots had been discovered to have suspect licences.

“[They] were found not to have given their exams themselves,” stated Khan. “They give money and have a dummy candidate sit in their place.”

On May 22, 98 individuals had been killed when a PIA Airbus A320 crashed right into a residential neighbourhood about 1.4km (0.9 miles) from Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport.

The preliminary investigation report, launched by Khan on Wednesday, stated “human error” by the plane’s pilots and air site visitors controllers was primarily guilty for the crash.

Crash report disputed

The Pakistan Air Line Pilots Association (PALPA) disputed the report’s findings, with a spokesperson telling Al Jazeera it was not happy that there had been pilots skilled to fly the identical mannequin plane concerned within the investigation.

PALPA didn’t supply any fast touch upon Thursday’s licence suspensions.

The air accident investigation board’s preliminary report discovered that the pilot concerned within the May 22 crash had ignored three warnings from air site visitors management relating to the plane’s extreme altitude and pace throughout approach.

The plane tried a touchdown with out its touchdown gear in place, inflicting its engines to hit the runway thrice earlier than the pilot lifted off once more, the report stated.

On his second approach, the pilot reported that each engines – broken by the influence with the runway – had failed. The plane crashed right into a dense residential neighbourhood simply in need of the airport on its second approach, killing 97 of the 99 individuals on board.

A baby, who was in one of many 29 properties destroyed by the crash, was additionally killed, hospital officers informed Al Jazeera.

Aviation Minister Khan stated a authorities inquiry was ongoing into all 262 alleged circumstances of fraud in acquiring pilots licences.

PIA’s spokesman informed Al Jazeera that any pilots discovered to have lied about their credentials “will be terminated”.

State-owned PIA is the most important of Pakistan’s industrial air carriers, with smaller airways Serene Air and Air Blue taking on many of the remainder of the nation’s air site visitors.

Representatives for these airways – whose pilots had been additionally included within the checklist of alleged “dubious” licence holders – weren’t instantly out there for remark.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.