ISLAMABAD - A team of Pakistan International Airline (PIA) experts would visit the EASA headquarters located in Cologne, Germany, this month to hold negotiations with the European aviation body (EASA) for the restoration of a prestigious safety certification it had awarded to the state-run Pakistani airline some eight years ago.

Former Managing Director PIA Captain Nadeem Yousufzai had reportedly constituted the team, finalised the related modalities and approved the team’s visit to EASA head office in his last official meeting before relinquishing charge as PIA chief. Earlier last month, European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) had suspended the licence certification “Part 145 Engineering and Maintenance” awarded to Pakistan due to the PIA’s alleged non-compliance of the EASA aircraft safety standards. Later in the same month, the EASA had formally invited PIA to visit its headquarters for the restoration of the safety certification. TheNation had unearthed this development on March 15 in the story, “EASA seeks explanation from PIA.” The PIA had confirmed this move in a press release issued a day later (March 16).

Reportedly, the five-member team scheduled to visit Cologne comprises the PIA Engineering and Maintenance branch personnel. Director Engineering and Maintenance Maqsood Ahmed would purportedly lead the experts team.

General Manager Public Relations PIA Syed Sultan Hassan told The Nation that the licence would be restored once the PIA team of experts visited Cologne for clarifying the airline’s position. He said that EASA inspectors had last visited Pakistan in 2004 that followed the licence award while the provisions of the suspended licence obligated EASA inspectors to visit the country and conduct field audits thrice every two years. He said that EASA officials had informed PIA in a letter written in November 2008 that they could not visit Pakistan due to travel restrictions imposed on account of deteriorating law and order situation in Pakistan.

In addition, the contents of the EASA letter to PIA regarding restoration of the aforementioned licence shared with this newspaper read. “We are very concerned about the future evaluation of your Part 145 Engineering and Maintenance and would like you to visit EASA headquarters in Cologne in order to address the situation generally and to explore together with you what steps need to be taken in order to reinstate your approval again.”  Privy circles in PIA see pending moves for the restoration of the EASA-awarded licence as a ‘test case’ for the new MD PIA Air Marshal (r) Rao Qamar Suleman. Reportedly, Rao is likely to continue with the strategy his predecessor had formed for conducting negotiations with EASA without making changes in the team formed to this effect.

Furthermore, another ‘test case’ for the newly appointed PIA MD entails the United Nations’ reported reviewing of its safety certification awarded to Pakistan by the international body’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in the year 2000.

The same certification was awarded under the ambit of ICAO’s highly reputed Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP).

Again, this newspaper had brought to light this development on March 17 in the story “UN may review safety certification to Pakistan.”

The President of ICAO’s Air Navigation Commission in Montreal, Canada, Christian Schleifer-Heingärtner had confirmed to this newspaper the licence reviewing initiative on international aviation body’s part. The provisions of the same certification authorise ICAO to suspend the licence certification awarded to any given state should its audit and operations inspectors detect foul play in the following of international safety standards.

The ICAO initiates any related action in this regard citing its universally accepted principle, “Lack of appropriate safety oversight in one contracting state, therefore, threatens the health of international civil aircraft operations.”

The incumbent PIA chief is yet to devise a strategy for tackling the situation in the backdrop of ICAO’s reviewing of safety certification to Pakistan. “He is yet to be briefed about this issue,” officials commented.