Thursday July 18, 2024

PCAA conducts flight crew exams after two years

By Bilal Hussain
May 10, 2022

Karachi: After a gap of two years pushed by restrictions of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and Covid-19, Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) conducted first set of flight crew exams on Monday to ensure international best practices.

The authority conducted the exams through a platform provided by UK Civil Aviation Authority at British Council Karachi. “Flight crew exams help aviators and the aviation industry to keep abreast of international best practices,” said Saifullah Khan, PCAA spokesperson.

ICAO had barred PCAA from conducting pilot license exams after a controversial statement of then Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan over fake licenses of pilots in June 2020, which came after the PIA plane crash in Karachi earlier that year.

Khan had revealed that up to 262 pilots had managed to have someone else to sit in the exams on their behalf. The investigation was conducted after a PIA plane crash that killed 97 people in Karachi on May 22, 2020.

International agencies took serious note of the minister’s revelation and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) immediately took notice and discontinued TCO (Third Country Operator) authorisation for Pakistani carriers. The USA also downgraded Pakistan to category 2 that means no Pakistan origin aircraft was allowed to enter US territory.

Right after EASA ban, efforts were made to allay their concerns. Direct audits from EASA and indirect adherence to safety standards for all other affiliated agencies such as IATA (International Air Transport Association), Department of Transport UK, which were later cleared, initiated. A condition was also put forth that PCAA wasn’t compliant to ICAO standards.

A nine-member ICAO committee carried out a 10-day audit in Pakistan, which cleared PCAA of a safety audit in February 2021. Following the successful ICAO audit, which was a prerequisite of the EASA audit, the aviation sector of Pakistan has been expecting an EASA team to visit the country since end of March this year. Their visit has apparently been delayed on political instability in the country.

“You can expect their [EASA] team any time this year provided there is political stability in the country,” said a source privy to the matter. The source added that with the resumption of issuance of license in Pakistan under UK CAA, the country had resolved all of its main issues.

Meanwhile, pilots giving the exams termed the process under UK CAA expensive, while other sources held it a best possible option. The source added that pilot licensing was the main issue in Pakistan's aviation sector crisis that started in the year 2020 after the aviation minister’s revelations. However, things would only return normal when Pakistan airlines resume their flights to Europe and America, they added.