LAHORE - The Punjab government has not been able to find a single pilot who could fly a helicopter in darkness, fog, rain and inclement weather conditions.
The provincial government had floated an advertisement in the national press in March this year inviting applications for the slot of a pilot and flight engineer for its rotary machine.
Besides other conditions, the Aviation Wing of the S&GAD wanted the pilot duly certified in Instrument Rating (IR), but not a single applicant out of six candidates could come up to the mark.
A pilot trained in Instrument Rating can fly a helicopter in stormy weather and also in the darkness. While many fulfilled the condition of minimum flying experience of 500 hours on Ml-17 helicopter, the most important one relating to his being certified in IR was not available.
“Only six candidates were short listed for the job who later could not qualify for the MI-17 as they failed to fulfil the basic requirement of IR Certification”, an official said.
Consequently, the government had to waive off this condition in the new advertisement. This has raised some fundamental questions. Will the Punjab government’s expunging the basic condition of IR Certification for appointment of a new helicopter pilot pave the way for traditional pilots? Is there no IR Certified pilot available in Pakistan? Do terms and conditions offered by the VIP Flights wing of the Punjab government can’t attract the competent pilots.
Sources in the Punjab government said that the CM office a couple of days back has approved a summary moved by the Services & General Administration department (S&GAD) regarding relaxation in the IR certification condition which was earlier mandatory by the Aviation wing for appointment of a pilot for chopper.
A senior officer, however, said that relaxation does not mean the VIP flights wing would ignore the IR condition altogether rather it would enable the recruited pilot complete the course to meet the requirement within a stipulated time period.
As of now, staff of 40 personnel – both technical and non-technical – is available to run the operation of the VIP flights of the Punjab government. Without proper certification in instrument rating, he said, the pilot who operates from a cockpit, a moment’s inattention can invite all types of problems.
An aviation expert at a flying club said that the fixed wing flight and flying rotary chopper is altogether different as flying a plane is a bit like playing video games. “You push a few buttons and it flies itself – whereas helicopters require precise mental and physical coordination”, he said.
At present, the biggest province of Pakistan possesses a single Russian made copter MI 17 meant for the use by CM and the governor. It is also used during the catastrophes like earthquake, floods etc.