Fate of Pakistan Aviation
As long as flight safety is sacrificed at the altar of greed and unjustified expansion of housing societies around the periphery of every civil airport, whether under garb of welfare or commercial profiteering, Pakistan’s aviation industry is likely to suffer and the damage done may be irreversible.
There is hardly a week that passes, without news that birds have damaged a commercial airline or its departure delayed at Lahore, Karachi and other major airports of the country.
It is an internationally adopted practice to enforce a sterile zone for residential colonies, wedding halls, eateries, clubs, etc, especially in approach/takeoff path around the periphery of every civil airport.
The food waste attracts birds which can lead to an accident with many fatalities of passengers or civilians living within the sterile zone.
What has been witnessed is sheer disregard for safety and instead of curtailing existing constructions, there has been an increase.
The ease with which housing societies, eateries, clubs etc. have manoeuvred their way with CAA and managed to get NOC, has inculcated a culture of non-compliance which is the root cause for all the ills that afflict our aviation industry.
Effective 01 July 2020, EASA imposed a 6-month ban on all airlines regulated by CAA to operate into any airport in Europe, following the 22 May 2020 crash of PK 8303 on approach at Karachi Airport and the irresponsible statement by Aviation Minister Sarwar on floor of NA that 260 out of 860 pilot licenses were fraudulent.
The 6-month ban by EASA follows months of their concerns which were accepted by PIA on 23 October 2019.
There seems to be an inherent problem with CAA, due to lack of experience in dealing with international regulatory agencies which require compliance with recommendations, failing which airlines can face complete or partial ban and this is exactly what happened.
EASA withdrew PIA Third Party Operator authorization given to PIA on 17 May 2016, which required Continuous Monitoring.
AM Arshad was Chairman PIA, when a team of CAA and the airline held meetings on 13 June 2019 and again on 03 September 2019 where 6-point corrective Action Plan was agreed to.
EASA now insists that on spot technical audit by their team of CAA’s capability to perform regulatory functions is mandatory and that is the stumbling block.
Every ticket sold by foreign airline to Pakistani clients allows them to remit their earnings to their foreign bank accounts and this is roughly estimated to be above $2 million annually.
—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Lahore.