As if the travel industry didn’t already have enough to worry about, an inquiry reveals a mass of ‘fake’ pilot licences in Pakistan, sparking outrage from lawmakers, industry officials and flyers alike.
The inquiry followed the crash of Pakistan International Airlines flight A320 on 22 May this year. The Airbus crashed into a poor, crowded residential suburb of Karachi, killing 97 people. The plane was seen circling above, making multiple attempts to land after losing an engine, before eventually descending into the suburban street and homes.
While Pakistan’s civil aviation authority claimed that the plane carried only 91 passengers and seven crew members, the airport in Lahore, from which the plane departed, said that there were 107 on board. Civil aviation authority spokesman Abdul Sattar Kokhar attributed this discrepancy to the chaos and confusion that followed the crash.
The inquiry resulted in the airline grounding 150 pilots, accusing them of having other people sit their exams in order to obtain their licences.
“We will make sure that such unqualified pilots never fly aircraft again,” said Abdullah Hafeez, a spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines. While he did not give any more details about the nature of the cheating, he said that the airline had initiated the process to fire pilots and insisted that passenger safety was the airline’s top priority.
Just a day before the airline announced the grounding of the 150 pilots, Ghulam Sarqar Khan, Pakistan’s aviation minister, announced that 262 out of 860 Pakistani pilots had fake licences.
These numbers shocked and outraged both lawmakers and the families of those who were killed and injured in the Karachi plane crash. While no more information on the nature of these fake licences was released, it has been suggested that – as in in prior investigations – qualified pilots were bribed into sitting tests for unqualified pilots.
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