CAA to outsource pilots licensing exams to UK

Jan 28, 2021 | News

KARACHI: In a bid to address the concerns of global aviation industry on the issue of alleged fake licences of Pakistani pilots, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has decided to outsource the process of holding licensing exams to the United Kingdom’s CAA.

Currently, all licensing exams, including commercial/airline transport pilot licence (CPL/ATPL), of the CAA are suspended after Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan had given what many thought was an irresponsible statement that licences of 262 Pakistani pilots were fake.

Following his statement, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) had suspended Pakistan’s Third Country Operation Authorisation and recently while extending the suspension for three more months it said that the investigations by the European Commission and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) into certification and oversight activities performed by the Pakistan CAA are still ongoing.

At an online public meeting aired live on its Facebook page on Tuesday, many concerned asked CAA Director General Khaqan Murtaza about resumption of ATPL and other licensing exams, restoration of direct flights of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to UK cities, May 22, 2020 PK-8303 crash and fake licence saga.

About licensing exams, the CAA chief said: “This will God willing begin in the end of March or April start … we are going to outsource these exams and all the written exams will be conducted through the UK CAA.”

‘All CAA’s licences genuine’

When a Facebook user asked as to how the CAA allowed pilots having fake licences to fly planes, Mr Murtaza said: “Let me clarify … none of the licences were fake … licensees were upgraded on different occasions and they had to take tests and exams again. Some pilots in connivance with CAA officials manipulated some papers but we have caught all such cases after an inquiry and took action against them.”

“We have cancelled some 50 licences after an inquiry and about 32 licences were suspended for different time period for having minor issues. Apart from these licences all other licences are fine and regular and none of them are fake. A fake licence is the one which [has] no basis or [is] issued by an institute that doesn’t exist. CAA as an institute issues licences and all the licences are genuine and not fake … some wrongdoings were done later in [different] papers,” he said.

He also told a questioner that none of the pilots of the PIA plane that crashed last year killing 97 passengers and crewmembers had fake licences.

“All those involved [in the incident] are currently facing accountability. All of our staff [found] involved have been dismissed from services. And in a day or two FIA will lodge criminal cases. Everything will come to light in a day or two.”

In response to a question as to why no one had so far been nominated as the head of the Aircraft Accident Investigation Board (AAIB) after the “resignation” of Air Commodore Usman Ghani, DG Murtaza said: “Air Cdr Usman Ghani did not resign. He was retired from the Air Force six months ago, but he was given extension for six months because he was investigating the accident [PIA plane crash]. Now his replacement has been nominated from the Air Force and will join in a day or two.”

Asked why PIA’s direct flight to Birmingham from Islamabad was stopped, CAA’s Air Transport director Air Cmdr Irfan Sabir replied: “For the time being, there are restrictions on Pakistani operators, not only PIA … there are some audit objections which we are pursuing. As soon as the observations are removed and our audit gets cleared, the operation of PIA between the UK and Pakistan will start.”

He said that the PIA plane crashed because of pilot’s mistake as there was no issue of safety or any system anomaly.

Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2021

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