On safety concerns’ US bans PIA flights

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The United States on Thursday banned all flights of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) with immediate effect.

The US Transport Department said in a statement that special permission given to PIA had been suspended due to safety concerns.

The move follows the grounding of 262 airline pilots in Pakistan over fake licences in a decision made by the Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan.

PIA said on Thursday it would ground pilots with “dubious” licences.

As per sources, Kuwait Air has grounded at least seven Pakistani pilots and 56 engineers, while Qatar Airways, Oman Air and Vietnam Airlines have compiled lists of Pakistani pilots, engineers and ground staff.

The UAE’s Emirates airline has also put a halt on all Pakistani airline flights, barring them from using the airports for destination and transit flights.

This has been done after the Imran Khan-led government announced and notified various countries about the actions it took against the alleged 141 pilots, who have been grounded and were under investigation.

As per officials of Kuwait Air, Omar Air and Vietnam Airlines, “employees whose name are on the lists will remain grounded till a report is received from the Pakistani authorities”.

Moreover, the European Union (EU) has also put a ban on Pakistani airlines while many other Pakistani pilots working on other airlines have also been barred from flying till the investigation into the fake licenses is concluded and results are revealed by the Pakistan government.

This action was taken after Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) wrote to foreign missions and global regulatory and safety bodies, notifying them that it grounded all 141 pilots suspected of obtaining licenses through unfair means.

“It is also ensured that pilots flying PIA flights are having genuine licenses endorsed by the government of Pakistan and are in physical possession of the same during all domestic and international flights,” said a copy of the letter sent to the US Embassy in Islamabad.

Pakistan grounded at least 262 pilots, 109 commercial and 153 airline transport pilots as an investigation to verify their license was initiated.

The 262 pilots include 141 from PIA, nine from Air Blue, 10 from Serene Airlines and 17 from Shaheen Airlines, which has closed down.

The step has brought global embarrassment for Pakistan as serious questions are bring raised over the safety of passengers, who use Pakistani airlines services for domestic and international travelling.

On the other hand, the pilots whose names have been listed and have been grounded, have rejected the claim stating that the government’s issues list is based on wrong and false facts.

“The list of grounded pilots has stated that many pilots were found guilty of falsely clearing nine papers, while there are eight papers in total required to get a pilot license from Civil Aviation Authority (CAA),” said one of the pilots whose name is in the list.

“There are many others, who have not even given eight papers till now and are co-pilots, they have put their names in there too,” he added.

As per Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) followed by the CAA, a pilot is required to pass all eight papers to become fully qualified, after completing at least 1,500 hours commercial flying time.

Pilots association has called on the government to form a judicial commission and inquire into the matter, adding that they do not trust the transparency of the government-led investigation.

The incumbent Pakistan government is also suffering to major criticism by the opposition political parties, who are now accusing the Aviation Minister and the government for bringing global embarrassment to the country.

The National Assembly budget session on Wednesday witnessed a heated exchange of argument over the issue of the dubious licenses of the Pakistani pilots, blaming the Aviation Minister for bringing humiliation to the country by making such a disclosure.