The United States banned Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flights from its airspace. The decision follows the recent investigation that found 40% of Pakistani pilots to hold dubious licenses.
The U.S. Department of Transportation revoked the permission for PIA to conduct charter flights to the United States, effective immediately, after “serious concern to aviation safety” were identified. A PIA spokesperson confirmed the information to local media Dawn.
In April 2020, PIA was authorized to carry out twelve repatriation flights a month between the United States in Pakistan. Since 2017, the airline had not flown any direct flights to the country over safety concerns.
In June 2020, the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) revealed that 262 out of 860 active Pakistani pilots had not sat the pilot exams themselves. In total, 40% of pilots, including inactive ones, held “fake” licenses, the authority found.
PIA immediately grounded 150 of its 426 pilots. Shortly after, the European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) suspended the country’s flag carrier, from operating to and from the European Union. The ban came into force on July 1, 2020, for a period of six months. In Vietnam, 27 Pakistani pilots (11 with Vietjet Air and 1 with Jetstar Pacific) were grounded by the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam, pending further investigation.
The results of the PCAA review were published in the aftermath of the crash of PIA Flight PK8303 that killed 97 people on May 22, 2020. Early findings pointed at the negligence of the pilots and the lack of adequate reaction from the air traffic controllers.