ICAO withdraws safety objection in Pakistani pilot scandal



The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) confirmed that the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority has resolved a safety concern that resulted from a 2020 scandal regarding fake pilot licenses.

In a letter to Khan Murtaza, the director general of Pakistan CAA, seen by local media on January 4, 2022, ICAO revealed conclusions of its 10-day safety audit, conducted in December 2021.  

The authority confirmed that its validation committee reviewed the action taken by Pakistan to address the Significant Safety Concern (SCC).  

“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,” the letter reads. 

The letter continues “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 licenses and ratings.” 

The ICAO determined that actions taken by Pakistan’s CAA have successfully resolved the issued SCC.  

The letter concludes as follows: “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.” 

Having passed the ICAO safety audit and resolved concerns that arose from the pilot license scandal, Pakistan CAA has raised new hopes for state-registered airlines about a possibility of regaining permission for flight operations to the United States, the United Kingdom, and European countries.  

The pilot license scandal erupted following Pakistan CAA’s investigation where the local aviation body suspected that 262 out of 860 active Pakistani pilots had cheated during mandatory pilot exams and did not attend not actually attend them. This alarming information followed the preliminary report into the PK8303 crash, where the flight crew and the air traffic controllers were blamed for the accident, which killed 97 people on May 22, 2020. 

In September 2020, the ICAO advised Pakistan to take immediate action and to stop issuing any new pilot licenses following the scandal. 

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