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Tuesday May 21, 2024

Shady appointments affecting CAA's performance

By Fakhar Durrani
June 19, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Airbus in its Accident Information Transmission (AIT) of PIA plane crash incident has raised no specific safety recommendations at the preliminary stage. This apparently means that there was no problem with the aircraft, raising questions about who is responsible for the crash; the pilot or the Civil Aviation personnel.

Background briefings, discussions with officials in Aviation Division and official documents reveal that all the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) service regulations, financial matters, temporary/ permanent/ contractual appointments on senior positions and induction criteria of different officer cadres need strict scrutiny. Many believe that favouritism and nepotism has marred the performance of the authority risking lives of hundreds of thousands of passengers.

According to World Bank data there were as many as 6,880,637 air transport passengers in Pakistan in 2018. “If the CAA officials do not perform their duties diligently and the favouritism continues, the lives of passengers would be at risk and such sad incidents may continue to happen,” a top official in the CAA told The News on condition of anonymity.

On June 05, 2020, the Airbus has issued an AIT on accident of PIA flight PK 8303 dated May 22. The AIT update has been approved for release by the Pakistan Aircraft Accident Investigation Board (AAIB) and Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses (BEA).

“The flight data recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) were readout and analysed at the BEA facilities in Paris Le Bourget, France under the leadership of the Pakistan AAIB with participation from EASA, Safran Aircraft Engines (on behalf of CFM) and Airbus. Both recorders provided valuable information for the investigation. Based on the preliminary analysis of the available data (accident site information, ATC records, FDR and CVR data) Airbus has no specific safety recommendations to raise at this stage of the investigation. Airbus continues to provide full support to the official investigation authorities and will provide further updates as appropriate,” the AIT report said.

A well-placed source in the Aviation Division informed The News that such is the level of favouritism that the person currently appointed as Director Flight Standards was previously selected as a Flight Inspector, but was then removed, as he did not meet the requisite criteria for the post. “The same person now serves as the director of the whole department thanks to the secretary aviation, who was his ex-course mate,” an official confided to The News

“The President of AAIB as well as the Director Air Transport did not satisfy the criteria required of their posts either. Hence, the previous Director HR denied their induction as it was against regulation. However, the then Secretary Aviation made an example of him and had him sacked/ dismissed/ discharged for refusing to comply with their demands,” the sources said.

According to the sources, director SQMS, who is on deputation from PAF has been given additional charge of the post of Dy. DGCAA (Regulatory), despite regulations clearly stating that contractual/ deputation employees cannot be given charge of a higher post. The establishment division’s decision in this regard having reference number Fl/60/2006-E-6 dated 05-03-2018 is available in HR department.

Documents available with The News reveal that the induction pay scale for Doctors, Engineers, Accountants, HR specialists, ATCOs and Lawyers under CAA service Regulations 2014 is EG-1 (PBS 17). All these posts require Professional Bachelor’s Degree in the relevant discipline. But sources say, just to accommodate some blue-eyed people, induction criteria for ATCOs has been changed. “They are still being inducted as EG-01, but now with only a minimal educational qualification of Intermediate with a six months FO course”, informed the sources.

The sources further informed that the PSO to DGCAA has been given additional charge of Director Commercial. He has been given charge of Director Commercial despite only being recently promoted as an Additional Director. At the same time, he is holding the post of PSO.

The sources further informed that a number of licenses have been issued for pilots who do not satisfy the basic criteria and requirements potentially endangering the lives of many. A retired air vice marshal who served as Deputy DG at the time and claim that he is the member of PM’s core team got his brother in law issued pilot license by using his influence in 2009. The same pilot is now serving a local private airline as a pilot.

When contacted Spokesperson of PIA said all these issues are related to CAA not the PIA. Therefore, he cannot respond to the queries.

The News then contacted Deputy DG CAA (Airport Services) Mr. Amir Mehboob but he said that the government has centralized the system and all the official queries are now answered by official spokesperson of Aviation Division. Therefore, this scribe should contact him.

This scribe then contacted Abdul Sattar Khokhar senior Joint Secretary (JS) Aviation who is official spokesperson of Aviation Division as well as CAA to get official version. Khokhar however, said he is on leave and can’t respond to the queries. This scribe then sent him written queries on his WhatsApp which he read on Tuesday but didn’t answer. He was sent a reminder again on Wednesday but no reply from him.

The News also contacted Deputy DGCAA (Regulatory) Nasir Hamdani who is responsible for most of the affairs in CAA. Hamdani asked this scribe to send text. He was sent a detailed questionnaire but he didn’t answer any of the queries. He was again sent a reminder on Wednesday but no response from him till filing of the story.