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ICAO may restore PIA flights to EU in February

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KARACHI: Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) may resume licensing pilots in February 2022 with the release of an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) audit after a scandal over fake licenses.

The ICAO team has completed the safety audit of the PCAA and will release its final report in a few weeks.

According to sources, the ICAO team’s visit was comprehensive and tough this time, but apparently they didn’t observe anything critical. Their main focus was on pilot licensing, airworthiness and HR structure.

The ICAO audit team members also visited Islamabad International Airport where they observed the process of departure of Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) domestic flight PK-300, security, cargo terminal, safety investigation board and other areas.

The ICAO, the UN Aviation body, advised Pakistan in September 2020 to undertake immediate corrective action and suspend the issue of any new pilot licenses after false licenses came to light following the crash of a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane in May that year, in which 97 people were killed.

A nine-member ICAO team carried out an audit in Pakistan for 10 days that concluded on Friday.

“We are hopeful we will resume issuance of licensing following the release of the ICAO audit report expected in February,” Khaqan Murtaza, director-general of the PCAA, told reporters on Monday.

The pilot licence scandal has tainted Pakistan’s aviation industry and hurt flag carrier PIA, which was barred from flying to Europe and the United States.

In June last year, Pakistan grounded 262 airline pilots suspected of dodging their exams following checks of their qualifications.

The action was prompted by the preliminary report on an airliner crash in the city of Karachi last year, which found that the pilots had failed to follow standard procedures and disregarded alarms.

“The situation is that they have cleared us but a final report is awaited. The report is expected any time after mid-February,” Murtaza said.

The audit was carried out in six areas – airworthiness, flying standards, personal licensing and examination, air navigation services, aerodromes and aircraft accidents.

The ICAO team visited Pakistan aeronautical complex, PIA offices and offices of other airlines.

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