EU ban on PIA flights likely to be lifted soon

PIA at heathrow airport - EU ban on PIA flights likely to be lifted soon

ISLAMABAD: The European Union (EU) is expected to lift a ban on Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flights after an International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) validation committee cleared a safety audit report on the national flag carrier.

According to a media reports, an ICAO audit team visited Pakistan to undertake a safety audit of the aviation authority and completed the process on December 10. However, its final report would be released in a few weeks and the Significant Safety Concerns (SSC) would be gradually eased out.

“Yes, the ICAO has informed the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) that the safety audit conducted by its team recently was presented before its validation committee, which cleared it after which the SSC will be removed and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency will lift the ban,” the report quoted PCAA Director General Khaqan Murtaza as telling the participants of a meeting of the Senate sub-committee on aviation on Wednesday.

Murtaza said until the PCAA received the approval, PIA would not be able to resume EU flight operations.

The meeting of the sub-committee on aviation was convened by Senator Saleem Mandviwalla in Islamabad. It was attended by former Pakistani premier and member of the National Assembly (MNA) Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Senator Afnanullah Khan, Senator Aon Abbas, the aviation secretary and others.

Abbasi, who was especially invited to the meeting, called for a review of amendments to the Civil Aviation Rules, 1994 and National Aviation Policy, 2019, according to the report.

He said the current aviation policy had nothing to do with aviation as the entire draft lacked points about engineering and how the PCAA supported Regular Public Transport (RPT) operations, which was a basic aspect of aviation.

The former prime minister said the PCAA land is most expensive in the country due to which it is difficult to install a simulator to train pilots as compared to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where its cost was half of that in Pakistan. He also suggested enhancing the qualification level of new pilots to graduation and that they must possess some experience, besides a separate chapter about RPT in the aviation policy, if the sector was to grow.

The participants discussed shortcomings in the existing policy, unavailability of qualified engineers, and proposed suggestions regarding customs duties on aircraft parts and reducing the high operational cost, according to the report.

The CAA director general said that aviation policies were being devised, but hardly implemented in the country.

Senator Mandviwalla suggested including facilities for aircraft on ground and discussed the issue of the Airport Security Force (ASF), which he said lacked security gadgets and other equipment.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) had suspended the authorisation of PIA to operate in EU member countries in July 2020 over licensing and flight safety concerns. The licensing scandal tainted Pakistan’s aviation industry and the country grounded 262 airline pilots suspected of dodging their exams following checks of their qualifications.

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