In a letter to the government Friday, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) said 141 of its 450 pilots would not be “used for any flying duties” as they had “suspicious licenses.”
The letter – sent by PIA General Manager Syed Qamar Maqbool – was shared with CNN on Monday by the company’s spokesperson, Abdullah Khan.
On Wednesday last week, Pakistan Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said 262 pilots in the country “did not take the exam themselves” and had paid someone else to sit it on their behalf.
“They don’t have a flying experience,” he said.
Pakistan has 860 active pilots serving its domestic airlines – including PIA – as well as a number of foreign carriers, Khan said.
Khan said all major airlines across Pakistan had been supplied “lists with names” of fake pilots, along with a request that “action” should be taken to “prevent them from flying.” So far, PIA is the only carrier to take action.
A fatal crash
Khan did not clarify if the two pilots on flight PK 8303 held fake licenses.
According to the report, the pilots were chatting about coronavirus and repeatedly ignored warnings from air traffic controllers before the plane went down in a residential area near the airport.
“The pilots were meeting corona throughout the flight. They were not focused. They talked about the coronavirus and how their families were affected,” Khan said, adding that the pilots were “overconfident.”
According to Khan, the pilots were told three times by air traffic controllers that the plane was too high and they should not attempt to land, “but the captain did not pay any heed to these instructions.”
The pilots proceeded with trying to land – without lowering the landing gear.
“The aircraft touched the runway surface on its engines,” the report said. The engines scrubbed the runway, causing sparks and irreparable damage.
The pilots pulled the plane back into the air, but the engine damage failed and caused the plane to crash, according to the report.
CNN’s Sophia Saifi and journalist Adeel Raja reported from Islamabad. CNN’s Sugam Pokharel reported from Atlanta. Nectar Gan contributed reporting from Hong Kong.