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ISLAMABAD: The European Union Commission refused to lift the ban on Pakistani flights to be operated in their territory. The suspension was imposed by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on July 1, 2020, after the revelation of fake licences of pilots.

The EASA, however, expressed satisfaction in its letter over certain steps taken by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to improve the situation but refused to lift the ban due to a number of reservations that it said Pakistan has yet to address.

The letter said that a further audit by the agency's officials was imperative to revoke the ban.

The aviation department of Pakistan needs to make its pilot licensing authority more transparent, said the EU Commission, noting that issuance of licenses to pilots has to be via a fool-proof protocol. The EU also objected to the safety procedures of Pakistani aviation industry, noting that it needs to work on that before the EU could allow it back in the operations.

"On 16 November 2020, your organisation provided the agency with a comprehensive set of documents as evidence to support the Implementation of the agreed Corrective Action Plan [CAP] for the remaining open level 1 finding related to identifying issues in your Safety Management System," the letter said.

"The agency reviewed the submitted material and found it satisfactory and sufficient as a first important step towards the closure of the above-mentioned finding," it added.

However, the agency said that the conditions that it had laid down in ART 205(c)(2) were not met.

In particular, the investigation conducted by the European Commission on the issuance of professional licenses was still on-going, which indicates that there is a possibility that the audit will not have the expected positive results, the letter noted.

"We propose to contact you for a next update of the situation as soon as the concerns regarding the issuance of professional licenses is investigated in full and satisfactorily resolved," the letter said, that their officials would not be able to visit Pakistan amid the coronavirus.

"In the meantime, the agency will closely monitor the situation and further developments," the letter added.

The ban was a big blow to the airline, which was already under scrutiny across the world due to recently uncovered loopholes within Pakistan's aviation industry, such as pilots possessing "fake" licences as put by the aviation minister, Ghulam Sarwar.

The startling revelations came as the aviation minister presented the interim report on the probe into the May 22 PIA plane crash.

Following the report, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) had expressed concern over the serious lapse in-licensing and safety oversight by the aviation regulator.

Subsequently, on June 24, the aviation minister announced that the qualifications of 262 pilots in Pakistan were "dubious" and thus, were barred from flying.

The pilots that were in the line of fire included 141 from the PIA, nine from Air Blue, and 10 from Serene Airline.

The rest of the 262 belonged to flying clubs or chartered plane services, the aviation minister had said.

He said all the airlines and the clubs had been conveyed that: "Their credentials are dubious, and they shouldn't be allowed to fly."

As a result, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) had grounded all Pakistani pilots working in the country.

Vietnam had licensed 27 Pakistani pilots, and 12 of them were still active at that time, while the other 15 pilots' contracts had expired or were inactive due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the CAAV.

The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) reported to have incurred a loss of Rs280 million after suspension of its flight operation to and from the EU states, the Aviation Minister, Ghulam Sarwar, informed the National Assembly.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020