In a letter dated July 13, 2020, Civil Aviation Authority Director General Hassan Nasir Jamy notified his counterpart in Oman that none of the CAA-issued pilot licenses were fake. This ran contrary to what Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan had revealed last month.
SAMAA Money called CAA spokesperson Abdul Sattar Khokhar and left him questions. We will be updating this story as soon as he responds.
In the last week of June, the aviation minister said that 262 or 30% of Pakistan’s 860 pilots have “fake” licenses. Sharing details of what he described as corruption within the CAA, the federal minister said 34 had not appeared in any of the eight exams, a requirement to qualify for a license. And 28 were suspected of having fake degrees. His pronouncements came to the fore weeks after PK-8303, operated by Pakistan International Airlines, crashed in Karachi, killing 97 people.
“We will no longer allow political hirings,” the minister said while sharing the findings of the incident’s preliminary report, which held the pilots responsible.
Sarwar’s statement dealt a fresh blow to PIA, already struggling for survival, as more than half of these pilots belong to it. As a result, PIA grounded 141 pilots suspected of fake licenses and fired 28 of them. The CAA also suspended 34 licenses.
The pronouncement about fake licenses made global headlines and put the credibility of Pakistan’s aviation regulator and the pilots it licences under a pall. AirlinesRatings.com downgraded PIA to one-star, the lowest rating on its safety index. International airlines grounded Pakistani pilots, air transport bodies raised safety concerns and demanded an inquiry into the matter while several countries shut their airports to Pakistani flights. The foreign aviation regulator instructed its airlines to immediately ground Pakistani pilots till the CAA verified the authenticity of their flying permits. And this brings us back to the DG’s letter.
After the bad press, CAA DG Jamy wrote the letter, whose contents contradict the minister: “All Commercial Pilot Licenses and Airline Transport Pilot Licenses issued by Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority are genuine and validly issued,” read the DG’s letter.
The pilot’s exams are computer-based and conducted under strict vigilance with closed-circuit TV cameras monitoring them. You can’t cheat or dodge this system without inside help, but neither the minister nor the DG came up with a single name from within the regulator involved in this alleged negligence. The same goes for the suspicion over the degrees, which should have been verified by the CAA. The minister chose, however, to make public the names of these pilots before completing the investigation. As a result, some pilots whose names were on the list are planning to dispute this in court. They say their record is clean and they have documentary evidence to prove their licenses are genuine. This includes retired pilots who want to clear their name.