With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, travel has taken repeated kicks to the nuts. Airlines have shut down, others have had mass layoffs and still more have closed several flight-paths until such a time as they can afford to use them again. So perhaps it’s a breath of fresh air that this time, we’re seeing a major international travel hit that had nothing to do with the virus! Well… At least not in whole. Enter the Pakistan pilots.
You see, a deadly crash on the 22nd of May 2020 that tragically took the lives of 98 people was apparently a result of pilots being distracted by fear of the coronavirus. The pilots attempted to land without first lowering the landing gear, causing the engines of the plane to scrape against the tarmac. After rising to attempt a second landing, the damaged engines failed and the plane crashed, all because a simple amateur distraction.
Thing is, qualified professionals aren’t meant to cause massive disasters with amateur mistakes. You train people hard to try and avoid exactly this kind of thing from happening! It only needs to happen once for confidence in an airline to plummet, and with this particular airline being the national airline of Pakistan, it was an imperative that an investigation was called to figure out how this could have happened. The revelation was worse than anyone had imagined.
As it turns out, out of 860 licensed pilots in Pakistan, a whole 260 of them had cheated during their exams, essentially making them utterly unqualified for the roles they were taking. The fact that they cheated at all makes their knowledge irrelevant, the sheer irresponsibility of knowingly putting other people’s lives in their unqualified hands is demonstrable of an attitude that would lead to disasters like this. So, naturally, the backlash was quite immense.
The European Union’s aviation safety agency announced that for at least six months, the Pakistani national airline would not be allowed to fly into European airspace. The Pakistani government fired five officials of their regulatory agency and Pakistan International Airlines have grounded 150 of their pilots outright. In many ways, they may be thankful that this happened during the coronavirus outbreak, when traffic is comparatively low.
Further punishments were doled out internationally. The UAE in particular launched an anxious appeal to the Pakistan government on the basis that many UAE pilots had gotten their licenses from Islamabad. Vietnam grounded all Pakistani pilots working within the country and the United Nations Department of Safety and Security removed Pakistani airlines outright from their ‘recommended list’, with UN staff told not to use any air operators registered in Pakistan.
How can these incidents be rectified? Well, many of the pilots are guilty of criminal negligence and should be fired and/or prosecuted. But at the same time, that cripples Pakistani aviation from then on out. Perhaps they will hope to simply force those pilots through another crash-course and get them qualified for realsies, getting as many back in the air as possible while weeding out the ones who never would have graduated in the first place. But then again, we can never rule out them just letting the same shit repeat itself so there’s more pilots in the air a few months down the line. Granted, with international scrutiny heightened, it’s doubtful that they’d want to take the risk.