Pakistani airlines are likely to soon start operating flights to the US, the UK and Europe after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) cleared a safety audit conducted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), it emerged on Wednesday.
The ICAO, a United Nations aviation body, had advised Pakistan in September 2020 to carry out prompt corrective action and stop issuing any new pilot licences after it learnt that bogus licenses may have been issued.
The revelation had come following the crash of a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) aircraft in May last year, which resulted in the deaths of 97 passengers and crew.
Pakistani pilots had faced sanctions after the aviation minister said in the National Assembly that a third of them had dubious or fake licences.
In the wake of the scandal, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) had taken serious notice and discontinued TCO (Third Country Operator) Authorisation for Pakistani carriers.
The US had also downgraded Pakistan to category 2, which means no Pakistan origin aircraft was allowed to enter its territory.
In its January 4 letter to CAA Director General Khaqan Murtaza, ICAO’s Deputy Director Denis Guindon wrote that the committee conducted the audit in December 2021 and “determined that the actions taken by Pakistan had successfully resolved SSC (Significant Safety Concern).”
“I wish to refer to the Significant Safety Concern (SSC/PEL-01/09-2020/PAK refers) that was issued to Pakistan on 18 September 2020 as well as the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) Continuous Monitoring Approach (CMA) audit that was conducted by an ICAO team in Pakistan from 29 November to 10 December 2021.”
During the audit, the committee reviewed the corrective actions taken and related evidence presented by Pakistan to address the SSC regarding the licensing system of the State, specifically in relation to the examinations conducted by the CAA and by delegated or designated training organizations prior to the issuance of licences and ratings.
“In accordance with the USOAP SSC process, […] the ICAO SSC Validation Committee reviewed the actions and relevant evidence validated in Pakistan. The Committee determined that the actions taken by Pakistan had successfully resolved SSC,” the letter stated.
The ICAO official also thanked the aviation authority for assistance during the audit mission and reiterated appreciation for the active commitment of Pakistan towards achieving its safety objectives.
On this achievement, the CAA declared this as a historic milestone for Pakistan and appreciated the efforts of the entire regulatory team behind this success.
After passing the safety audit, the PCAA has started contacting UK CAA and European Commission to convey the resolution of safety concerns by ICAO.
The CAA said that it will be stressed to permit operations of Pakistani registered airlines to UK and Europe at the earliest possible and hoped that permissions will be issued on a fast-track basis.