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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Pakistan airline grounds about 150 pilots in licence probe: official

Last month, a PIA plane came down in a residential area, killing 98 people [AFP]

Date of publication: 26 June, 2020

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A Pakistan government review found that more than 260 of the country's 860 active pilots had fake licenses or cheated on exams.

Pakistan International Airlines said Thursday it had grounded almost a third of its pilots for holding fake or dubious licences, a month after one of its planes crashed into houses killing 98 people.

The move comes after the government released a preliminary report into the May 22 crash in Karachi.

Investigators largely blamed the two pilots, who ignored flight protocols and had been discussing the coronavirus outbreak when they first attempted to land the Airbus A320.

PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez Khan told AFP that a government probe last year had found about 150 of its 434 pilots were carrying "either bogus or suspicious licences".

"We have decided to ground those 150 pilots with bogus licences with immediate effect," he said.

Both the pilots in the Karachi crash were found to have had authentic credentials.

"Their names are not included in the list of 150," Khan said.

Details of the government probe were made public Wednesday when Pakistan's aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan told parliament the review found more than 260 of the country's 860 active pilots had fake licenses or had cheated on exams.

State-owned PIA said it has requested additional details from the Civil Aviation Authority so "further action may be taken against those who have become severe potential hazards".

PIA, Pakistan's flag carrier, currently has a fleet of 31 planes and employs around 14,500 staff.

Last month's crash saw the plane come down in a crowded residential area near Karachi airport, killing 97 people on board and a child on the ground.

The preliminary report outlined the flight's chaotic final minutes and a bizarre series of errors compounded by communication failures with air traffic control.

Read also: Crashed Pakistani jet's cockpit voice recorder found

Pakistan has a chequered military and civilian aviation safety record, with frequent plane and helicopter crashes over the years.

In 2016, a PIA plane burst into flames after one of its two turboprop engines failed while flying from the remote north to Islamabad, killing more than 40 people.

The deadliest air disaster in Pakistan was in 2010 when an Airbus A321 operated by private airline Airblue crashed into the hills of Islamabad as it came in to land, killing all 152 people on board.

An official report blamed that accident on a confused captain and a hostile cockpit atmosphere.

PIA, one of the region's leading airlines until the 1970s, now suffers from a sinking reputation due to frequent cancellations, delays and financial troubles.

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