Pakistan pilots accused of cheating on exams after Karachi crash that killed 97

By The New Daily

Almost one in three civilian pilots in Pakistan have fake licences and are not qualified to fly, the country’s aviation minister has revealed.

Pakistan’s state-run airline is grounding 150 pilots, accusing them of obtaining licences by having others take exams for them after a probe into May’s crash that killed 97 people in Karachi.

Abdullah Hafeez, a spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines, did not give additional details about the cheating but said the process to fire the pilots had been initiated.

“We will make it sure that such unqualified pilots never fly aircraft again,” he said on Thursday (local time).

The move by PIA to ground the pilots comes a day after the country’s aviation minister, Ghulam Sarqar Khan, said 262 out of 860 Pakistani pilots had “fake” licences.

He made the revelation while presenting preliminary findings of a probe to parliament into the May 22 Airbus A320 aircraft crash.

Addressing Pakistan’s National Assembly, Mr Khan said more than 30 per cent of the country’s pilots “did not take the exam themselves” and had paid someone else to sit it on their behalf.

“They don’t have flying experience,” he said.

PIA has defended its record, insisting the airline was not alone in having pilots among its ranks with questionable qualifications.

The announcement stunned politicians in the National Assembly and shocked family members of passengers who died when Flight PK8303 went down in a congested residential area in Karachi, killing 97 people, including all the crew members after departing from the eastern city of Lahore. There were only two survivors, and a girl died on the ground.

Neither Mr Khan nor Mr Hafeez released additional details about the alleged methods used by the pilots to wrongfully obtain licences to fly commercial planes.

Mr Khan said only they did not take examinations themselves to get the required certificates, which are issued by the civil aviation authority.

Officials familiar with the process of issuing pilot’s licences said some people who had the skills to fly a plane but lacked technical knowledge had in previously bribed qualified people to take exams for them.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said PIA learned about the scandal two years ago. At the time, it had fired at least four pilots amid accusations they had falsified exams to obtain a licence from the civil aviation authority.

-with agencies