Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

Minister of Aviation says PIA application follows the International Civil Aviation Organization which cleared the airline in a safety audit.

Karachi, Pakistan Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the South Asian country’s national flag carrier, expects to resume European aviation operations, suspended in 2020 due to security issues, by March, the country’s aviation minister said.

Ghulam Sarwar Khan told a news conference in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Thursday, that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) had approved Pakistan’s aviation in a security audit carried out late last year and that PIA had applied for a resumption of European operations.

Europe’s aviation regulator, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), suspended flights operated by Pakistani airlines in 2020, following the crash of a PIA Airbus A320 in the southern city of Karachi that 97 passengers killed and a subsequent government inquiry into fraudulent licensing practice.

Khan, the Minister of Aviation, said on Thursday that 50 Pakistani pilot licenses had been canceled after the investigation, with five Pakistani Civil Aviation Authority officials fired and charged with fraud.

At least eight pilots at PIA were fired in connection with the investigation, he said.

“We hope so in February or March [PIA flight] operations in Europe will resume, ”he said.

In July 2020, a Al Jazeera investigation widespread allegations of fraud found in pilot licensing proceedings in Pakistan. Several pilots also expressed concern about safety standards, with one senior pilot describing the situation as “a ticking time bomb”.

Pakistan has seen five major commercial or charter plane crashes since 2010, killing at least 445 people.

The same period saw numerous non-fatal aircraft accidents, including mid-flight engine shutdowns, landing gear failures, runway overrun and at least one collision on the ground, official reports show.

Thursday’s announcement came a day after the ICAO gave Pakistan’s civil aviation regulator clarity on resolving significant security issues, after an audit team visited the country in late 2021.

Khan said Pakistan is reviewing its pilot certification process and signing an agreement with the UK Civil Aviation Authority for pilots to be certified and tested in collaboration with that agency.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweeted @AsadHashim.

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