ISLAMABAD - The commercial pilots hailing from the other countries presently working with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) are allegedly compromising over the flight safety standards by exceeding the official flying limits in violation of the flight duty time limitations (FDTL), it is learnt.
Presently, the foreign pilots of the four Boeing 737-800s planes, the national flag carrier has taken on wet-lease, are being used above safety levels allegedly by the PIA’s flight operations (FO) department, credible aviation sources informed this correspondent. “This is a big safety hazard,” the officials believed.
According to details, the foreign pilots flying the leased aircraft, who work with PIA usually for eight to twelve weeks, are paid for the number of hours they fly at the PIA. The PIA’s FO department, the sources said, has allowed and even subjected them to fly for more duty hours beyond their official flying limits against the regulations while no formal record is maintained to this effect. This, allegedly, is being done out of money making motives. On the other hand, the insiders said, the flying records of the Pakistani pilots of all the airlines are strictly maintained to make sure they adhered to the aviation rules and regulations.
The aviation sources quoted some instances whereby the foreign pilots complained to PIA about their ‘misuse’ and fatigue. “The PIA pressure is making the pilots violate the limits of duty specified in the regulations along with bare minimum rest periods, which is a big flight safety hazard,” the officials commented.
“Since foreign pilots don’t hold Pakistani licences, the airlines use them for flying in Pakistan only to make quick money in least possible time without any consideration of passengers’ safety,” the insiders furthered. The Nation called the PIA Director Flight Operations (DFO) Captain Khalid Hamza for his version on the issue but he did not comment It bears mentioning here that Pakistan’s commercial civil aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), issues permits, not licences, to the foreign airlines’ pilots who work with PIA for a short span of time and are bound to adhere to the CAA rules and regulations that do not allow flying beyond the fixed limits.
The CAA that is tasked to ensure whether all Pakistani pilots adhere to FDTL takes punitive actions against local pilots of all the commercial airlines including PIA in case they violate flight safety regulations.
But in case of foreign pilots, it is learnt, the CAA exercises little oversight. “The greatest professional fear for an airline pilot comes from losing the flying licence. The foreign pilots here are not issued licences in the first place, so there’s no fear of being taken to task in case of violations,” commented a senior CAA official.
The violation of the prescribed flying limits is a common practice at private airlines in Pakistan, he said. “It looks that the PIA has also learned this trick of the trade which is strictly prohibited internationally.” The PIA sources said this issue could have been resolved had the PIA acquired the four Boeing planes on dry-lease instead of wet-lease. The PIA management had approved that Boeing-737-800s would be inducted on dry-lease and that the PIA pilots who were rated on Boeing- 737-300 to 800 planes would be allowed to fly such aircraft provided that they acquired a flying permit from aviation regulator of the country where the aircraft concerned was registered, before this plan was shelved on the grounds that the PIA management deemed the dry-lease option as an ‘expensive preposition.’
The suggestion of acquiring the PIA aircraft on dry-lease was floated by the Pakistan Airline Pilots’ Association (PALPA) and agreed by the management in the past. The officials say the PIA management has introduced certain pre-requisites for pilots including screening tests and passage of certain examinations for flying Boeing-737 aircraft even for those pilots who were already rated on this aircraft.