The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has suspended all European operations of Pakistan International Airlines (OIA) as of midnight July 1, 2020. This suspension is in effect for six months and they will not be reinstated until PIA can demonstrate compliance with EASA safety management. PIA operates in Europe under a Third Country Operations (TCO) certificate. It is the TCO that EASA has suspended for six months. Without the TCO certificate, PIA is effectively banned from operating anywhere in the European Union.
PIA and EASA have been at odds with each other for a long time. EASA has found six major safety compliance issues over a long period of time. PIA did enough to correct five of the six issues. The remaining issue is the lack of a Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) program. In Europe, airliner flight data recorders (FDR) are routinely examined for flight anomalies executed by the flight crew. EASA will inquire with the airline about certain events captured on the FDR. This doesn’t mean that the flight crew is in trouble, but EASA safety will want to know the circumstances of flight anomalies such as a hard landing or landing gear and flaps deployed at an unsafe airspeed. EASA expects airlines under this type of review to respond quickly and respond honestly.
PIA Flight 8303 Crash
PIA flight 8303, an Airbus A320-214 crashed off the end of runway 25L at Jinnah Airport in Pakistan. The initial approach to the airport was three times the altitude they should have been when beginning the approach. The preliminary crash report was issued on June 24, 2020 by the Pakistani Aircraft Accident Investigation Board. You can read that report here. There were many failures by the flight crew that points to crew complacency, lack of situational awareness and failure to follow control tower instructions to execute a go-around.
The landing gear was retracted by the crew prior to landing resulting in the engines scraping the runway. The crew then executed a go-around but the runway contact had damaged both engines. On the second approach, the engines failed causing an uncontrolled landing. The resulting crash killed 97 out of 99 aboard the A-320 along with four fatalities on the ground.
Fraudulent Pilots Licenses
It was determined that 260 of 800 pilot licenses issued in Pakistan were fraudulent. On June 26, 2020, PIA grounded 150 of its 434 pilots for pilot credential issues. These credentials will be investigated to determine if they are authentic or not. In January, 2019, 19 pilots were grounded for the same issues. EASA has found that Pakistan is not capable to apply international standard in the issuance of pilots’ licenses.
A Professional Assessment
I turned to my go-to guy Juan Brown for his expert take on the suspension of PIA. Juan is a 777 pilot for American Airlines and a leading aviation authority. The video below has his analysis:
The Action By EASA
EASA received a letter from PIA on June 28, 2020 with the airlines’ response to EASA. EASA found the airlines’ response as inadequate. Due to continued safety compliance issues, EASA took the step to suspend the PIA Third Country Operations certificate. In order to reinstate from the suspension, PIA will have to demonstrate to EASA, full safety compliance according to EASA standards. This will require a FOQA program review and acceptance by EASA. If PIA does not comply at the end of six months, EASE can extend the suspension. I have posted the suspension letter from Patrick KY, executive director at EASA to the airline:
I fly search and rescue in a Cessna 182, regardless of size, flying is flying. I was shocked to learn of pilot credentialing issues in licenses authorized by Pakistan. I also find the flight crew performance of PIA 8303 abhorrent showing a total lack of cockpit discipline, a total absence of situational awareness and total disregard for instructions to execute a go-around.
PIA will have six months to get there act together and prove to EASA that they should have their Third Country Operations certificate reinstated.