The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has suspended the Third Country Operator (TCO) authorization of Pakistani carriers Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and Vision Air effective July 1, the agency confirmed Tuesday. The decision stems from concerns about the capability of authorities to ensure that Pakistani air operators comply with international standards following a report by the country's parliament that revealed a “large share” of pilot licenses issued in Pakistan are invalid, said EASA.
The suspensions come some five weeks after the crash of a PIA Airbus A320 in which 97 of 99 aboard died along with one of four people injured on the ground. In an accident report published on June 24, Pakistan’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Board (AAIB) said it intended to look more closely at aircrew records "related to their medical fitness, licensing, training records, and personal documents." The agency also indicated it will review PIA's crew scheduling and rest process for the month prior to the accident.
A June 25 report by the Associated Press indicated that PIA grounded 150 pilots suspected of cheating on qualification tests “by having others take exams for them.” During a presentation to parliament on the crash, Pakistani aviation minister Ghulam Sarqar Khan revealed that 262 out of 860 Pakistani pilots carried "fake" licenses.
“PIA acknowledges the AAIB report and has already taken measures learning from it,” said the airline in a twitter post. “All pilots with dubious licenses will be grounded. Safety is more important than any commercial interest.”