Malik Tariq ali
While it is understandable that after gross mishandling by CAA/PIA and Aviation Ministry in failing to implement and incorporate international safety requirements, the void created by initial 6 months ban on all PCAA regulated airlines by EASA, it was unavoidable in the interim period, but allow foreign airlines. To add salt to injury Aviation Minister raised unsubstantiated issue of fake licenses.
However, the government and CAA claiming it a success that following British Airways, now Virgin Airlines will also be allowed to operate direct flights to northern hubs Islamabad and Lahore, from where almost 80% of international traffic originates, is shocking. Even Ground Handling was given by Virgin to a UAE based company. The Aviation Ministry and Government of Pakistan should rejoice only when permission is given to CAA regulated airlines to resume EU operation. These European airlines facing acute revenue shortfalls, would in all probability, lobby that ban on PIA prolongs.
The fact is that PIA had been operating into the EU airspace and all major destinations without any complaints by regulators until 2004. It is the choice of executives placed at helm in both CAA and PIA who have personal egoistic issues etc in failing to digest that whatever maybe their status and networking within Pakistan, they must submit and comply with recommendations of ICAO and other regulators such as EASA etc. Failure to comply with international industry practices has resulted in repetitive suspensions (2005 and 2011) with disastrous long-term consequences and financial impact on national exchequer and forex reserves. Millions of US Dollars will now be transferred from the revenue earned by these foreign airlines to their bank accounts abroad.
The most recent ban followed when CAA and PIA teams agreed to implement in 2019, six corrective action plan items. Whether it is lack of commercial aviation expertise or incompetence etc, CAA failed to enforce upon PIA to adopt Safety Management System acceptable to EASA. Ample time and repeated warnings were given to PIA/CAA and on 30 June they imposed a complete ban on PIA into EU initially for 6 months, and if they fail to comply with mandatory recommendations another three months, which is the situation now; if we fail to satisfy EASA Safety Audit, then by end of March there will complete revoking of Third Country Operation permit into EU airspace.
In 2007 the problem started when former DMD Niaz appointed a single vendor located in a remote part of the UK and delays in prompt availability of essential spare parts, resulted in “systematic deficiency in maintenance”. No lessons were learned because by 2011, another controversial MD and DMD Siyani appointed Transworld Fze Dubai as the single vendor, with disastrous consequences.
—The writer is a regular columnist, based in Lahore.