EASA Suspends Pakistani Airlines’ Operating Authority

Pakistan International Airlines crash
Wreckage from the May 22 crash of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Flight 8303, an Airbus A320.
Credit: Rizwan Tabassum/AFP/Getty Images

EASA has pulled operator approvals for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and Vision Air International, a Karachi-based charter and cargo carrier, in the aftermath of Pakistan’s pilot-licensing scandal.

The bans, technically suspensions of each carrier’s third-country operator authorization, are effective July 1.

“This decision was taken due to concerns about the capability of competent authorities to ensure that Pakistani air operators are in compliance with applicable international standards at all times, in view of the recent investigation reported on in the Pakistani parliament, which revealed that a large share of pilot licenses issued in Pakistan are invalid,” EASA said.

PIA said the suspension lasts for six months.

“PIA is in touch with EASA to allay their concerns and hopes that the suspension will be revoked ... soon,” the airline said.

The U.S. FAA has not announced any actions against Pakistani carriers. The agency’s International Aviation Safety Assessment program audits foreign civil aviation agencies for compliance with ICAO standards. Pakistan is in EASA “Category 1,” signifying it complies with ICAO standards.

“We are assessing the situation,” the U.S. agency said late June 30.

The licensing issue was uncovered as part of the Pakistan-led probe into the May 22 fatal accident of PIA Flight 8303. Pakistani officials found that about 250 of the country’s 860 pilots did not have valid licenses, including 140 of PIA’s 430 pilots.

A preliminary report released June 24 said the crew conducted an unstable approach into Karachi that included high rates of airspeed and descent. The Airbus A320’s landing gear was not extended, and its engine nacelles scraped the runway surface. The crew then attempted a go-around, but the A320’s engines failed on the way back around to the airfield. The aircraft went down in a residential area near the airport. Ninety-seven of the 99 passengers and crew were killed.

The preliminary report does not contain information on Flight 8303’s pilots or discuss crew licensing.

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.