BY MEHR YASIN
ISLAMABAD: In a major embarrassment Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government, The United States of America has banned Pakistan’s national flag carries from operating flights to and from United States.
The United States transport authority has revoked the permission granted to the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to operate a number of special direct flights to the US.
As per reports, the authorisation was revoked “due to recent events identified by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority that are of serious concern to aviation safety, specifically matters pertaining to the proper certification of certain Pakistani pilots”.
PIA spokesperson Abdullah Khan confirmed that the airline had been notified of the permission being withdrawn via email.
It’s worth noting here that The US Department of Transportation had in April granted PIA permission to operate 12 direct flights to the US to repatriate people stranded by the coronavirus pandemic. The airline had until now operated six of the flights to different US cities.
Pakistan International Airline, country’s national flag career, is already struggling hard to cope with new sanctions unleashed by the European Union’s aviation safety agency which said earlier this week that Pakistan’s national airline will not be allowed to fly into Europe for at least six months. Now, the US transport authority has suspended its operations.
The advisory came following Pakistan’s aviation minister revelation last week that nearly a third of Pakistani pilots had cheated on their pilot’s exams.
Minister’s remarks about Pakistani pilots’ degrees sparked worldwide outrage with International airlines either sacking Pakistani pilots or grounding the. Situation has cost heavily to a large number of well trained and genuine degree holder Pakistani pilots working in foreign airlines.
In a message sent to “Islamabad Telegraph”, A Pakistani pilot working in South Africa said Minister’s remarks has put his family’s future in danger.
“I am a retired Group Captain from the Pakistan Air Force and currently operating an air ambulance stationed at South Africa. Today my company had grounded me till further notice. I have two university going children. Hell has been brought to my family by an individual who doesn’t know anything about aviation. If I sue the minister concerned for damages, relief if I get it, would be after at least a few years. My family’s bread has been put to danger,” pilot said requesting not to be named.
When contacted, Pakistan International Airlines spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said situation was too bad.
“It’s hurting. However, we will make a comeback soon,” he said.
This newspaper got to know that PIA has not been flying to Europe because of the pandemic. But the airline hopes to resume its flights to Oslo, Copenhagen, Paris, Barcelona and Milan within the next two months.
An inquiry into the May 22 Airbus A320 crash that killed 97 people at the southern port city of Karachi resulted in the stunning revelation that 260 of 860 pilots in Pakistan had cheated on their pilots’ exams, but were still given licences by the Civil Aviation Authority.
The government has since fired five officials of the regulatory agency and criminal charges are being considered.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency “is concerned about the validity of the Pakistani pilot licences and that Pakistan, as the State of operator, is currently not capable to certify and oversee its operators and aircraft in accordance with applicable international standards,” the organization said in its letter announcing the ban.
PIA has grounded 150 of its pilots for cheating.
In 2019, PIA grounded 17 pilots over concerns about their licences after one of its aircraft skidded off the runway in northern Pakistan.
Pakistan has a chequered aviation safety record, including a number of airliner crashes.
In 2010, an aircraft operated by private airline Airblue crashed near Islamabad, killing all 152 people on board – the deadliest air disaster in Pakistani history.
In 2012, a Boeing 737-200 operated by Pakistan’s Bhoja Air crashed in bad weather on its approach to land in Rawalpindi, killing all 121 passengers and six crew.
And in 2016, a PIA plane burst into flames while travelling from northern Pakistan to Islamabad, killing 47 people.