The Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority carried out an investigation that found that 40% of pilots in the country held fake pilot licenses. In response to the findings, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) suspended 150 of its 426 pilots pending further investigation.
The investigation, which was launched in February 2019, found that 262 out of 860 active Pakistani pilots had not sat the pilot exams themselves. “Pilots were also appointed on political basis, unfortunately,” Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan said. “Merit was ignored while appointing pilots.”
That alarming result comes as the preliminary report into PK8303 crash blames the flight crew and the air traffic controllers for the accident that killed 97 people on May 22, 2020. “Captain and first officer were adequately qualified and experienced to undertake the said flight”, but their records and documents are currently under scrutiny.
A spokesperson from PIA said that nearly 150 of its 426 pilots have been found to hold “questionable” certificates. The suspected pilots will remain suspended while their documents are being examined further.
It is not the first time that the flag carrier of Pakistan takes such measures. In December 2018, PIA already indicated that over 50 of its employees, including pilots and cabin crew, were sacked for holding fake high school degrees. “The airline has dismissed from service its 50 staffers including three pilots for holding fake high school degrees,” PIA’s spokesperson Mashood Tajwar told the AFP.
Earlier in December 2018, the CAA had reported to the Supreme Court that five of PIA pilots had not completed their matriculation (10th-grade level exam usually taken up by students aged 14 to 16 years).
The specific approach of each airline to verify the authenticity of pilot licenses plays a major role. Some carriers only require a pilot to send their license, hours log, and medical records. All three can easily be faked in a country with more lenient civil aviation authority. To try and address that issue, other airlines now ask for a License Verification Letter to validate the authenticity of a foreign license. Additionally, yearly License Proficiency Check and Operator Proficiency Check simulator sessions help track the skills of a pilot.