European Union ban on PIA flights to remain after some conditions still ‘not met’

A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane can be seen at an airport. — AFP/Files

Pakistan International Airlines’ flights to the European Union will remain banned as certain conditions put to the flag carrier were still”not met”, a letter seen by Geo News said.

The suspension, imposed by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), took effect on July 1, 2020, after it came to light that pilots possessed “fake” licences, as put by the aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar.

The EASA, in the letter, expressed satisfaction over certain steps taken by the Civil Aviation Authority to improve the situation. However, it said that a further audit by the agency’s officials was imperative to revoke the ban.

Read more: PIA flights to Europe suspended for six months by air safety agency

“On 16 November 2020, your organisation provided the agency with a comprehensive set of documents as evidence to support the Implementation of the agreed Corrective Action Plan [CAP] for the remaining open level 1 finding related to identifying issues in your Safety Management System,” the letter said.

“The Agency reviewed the submitted material and found it satisfactory and sufficient as a first important step towards the closure of the above-mentioned finding,” it added.

Read more: PIA decides not to appeal EU flight ban

However, the agency said that the conditions that it had laid down in ART 205(c)(2) were not met. 

In particular, the investigation conducted by the European Commission on the issuance of professional licenses was still on-going, which indicates that there is a possibility that the audit will not have the expected positive results, the letter noted.

“We propose to contact you for a next update of the situation as soon as the concerns regarding the issuance of professional licenses is investigated in full and satisfactorily resolved,” the latter said, that their officials would not be able to visit Pakistan amid coronavirus.

Read more: After EASA move, UK aviation industry suspends PIA flights from three airports

“In the meantime, the Agency will closely monitor the situation and further developments,” the letter added.

‘Fake’ licences, ‘dubious’ credentials

The ban was a big blow to the airline, which was already under scrutiny across the world due to recently uncovered pitfalls within Pakistan’s aviation industry, such as pilots possessing “fake” licences as put by the aviation minister.

The startling revelations came as the aviation minister presented the interim report on the probe into the May 22 PIA plane crash.

Following the report, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) had expressed concern over the “serious lapse in-licensing and safety oversight by the aviation regulator”.

Subsequently, on June 24, the aviation minister announced that the qualifications of 262 pilots in Pakistan are “dubious” and thus they will be barred from flying.

The pilots that were in the line of fire included 141 from PIA, nine from Air Blue, and 10 from Serene Airline.

The rest of the 262 belonged to flying clubs or chartered plane services, the aviation minister had said. 

He said all the airlines and the clubs had been conveyed that: “Their credentials are dubious, and they shouldn’t be allowed to fly.”

With the back to back developments causing an international uproar, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) had grounded all Pakistani pilots working in the country.

Vietnam had licensed 27 Pakistani pilots, and 12 of them were still active at that time, while the other 15 pilots’ contracts had expired or were inactive due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the CAAV.

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