UAE civil aviation authorities ask Pakistan for proof of pilots' credentials amid fake licence scandal

Verification of Pakistan pilots' qualifications sought by General Civil Aviation Authority to ensure safety of operations

FILE - In this Sept. 7, 2010 file photo, a Pakistan International Airlines plane sits on the tarmac at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey. Pakistan’s state-run airline announced Thursday, June 25, 2020, it will ground 150 pilots on charges they obtained their pilot licenses by having others take exams for them. Abdullah Hafeez, a spokesman for PIA, said the decision comes after a probe into last month’s Pakistan International Airlines crash that killed 97 people in the city of Karachi.  (AP Photo/File)
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The UAE's aviation authority has asked Pakistan for detailed information about the qualifications of its pilots to ensure the safety of flights.

The request comes a week after Pakistan's aviation minister said close to a third of the country's pilots had obtained flying licences fraudulently.

The General Civil Aviation Authority said it asked for clarifications as it was keen to implement the highest aviation safety standards required for operations in the country.

The UAE regulator has requested from Pakistan “clarifications pertaining to the authenticity of Pakistani issued licences and verifications of the qualifications of their pilots who are holding Pakistani licences,” according to a statement.

The GCAA has also reviewed all its records of licences issued by Pakistan to ensure “no suspicious licenses issued by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority has entered its system.”

The authority is in discussions with the International Civil Aviation Organisation and has asked for more information to take further safety measures if required.

On Thursday, Etihad said it has worked closely with the GCAA to verify the qualifications and licenses of Pakistani pilots employed by the airline.

“While we can confirm the authenticity of these pilots, we are however carrying out further precautionary due diligence with an additional audit,” a spokeswoman said

The airline said it operates stringent safety, security and professional background checks on all pilots and engineers joining its workforce.

“The safety of our passengers and crew remains our paramount priority,” she said.

Emirates declined to comment while Flydubai said it was governed by GCAA in the matter.

On Monday, the GCAA suspended passenger flights from Pakistan entering the country.

Pakistan’s aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan last week said 262 pilots in the country had not taken exams themselves but paid someone to sit the papers on their behalf.

Earlier this week, the European Union banned Pakistan International Airlines from flying into Europe for six months.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said it was “concerned about the validity of the Pakistani pilot licences and that Pakistan, as the state of operator, is currently not capable to certify and oversee its operators and aircraft in accordance with applicable international standards.”

Pakistan International Airlines has grounded 150 pilots for cheating.

An inquiry into the May 22 PIA crash that killed 97 people near Karachi led to the revelation that 260 of 860 pilots in Pakistan had cheated on their exams.

The report said the pilots were discussing the impact of the coronavirus before the plane crashed into a row of houses as it approached Karachi airport.

Mr Khan told parliament the pilot and the controller did not follow standard rules.

The government has since fired four officials of the regulatory agency.