Pilot cheating scandal rocks airline, with 150 sacked following plane crash investigation

LONDON, UK - AUGUST, 3 2013; A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Boeing 777-240(ER) lands at Heathrow Airport in London

An investigation into the deadly crash of a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane last month has led to the sacking of 150 of the airline’s pilots, who have been accused of cheating on their exams.

Aviation industry officials revealed some pilots who had the skills to fly a plane but lacked technical knowledge bribed qualified persons to take the exam for them, according to Reuters.

The same officials, who remained anonymous, also said PIA first knew about the dodgy exam practices two years ago.

The scandal was brought to authorities’ attention following the parliamentary report into last month’s crash which killed 97 people after landing on a residential building in Karachi.

The report revealed the pilots involved did not follow standard procedures and ignored alarms.

Pakistan’s aviation minister, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, told parliament on Wednesday the flight data recorder revealed the plane landed on its engine during its first landing attempt, as reported by ABC News.

The flight’s landing gear was lowered at 10 nautical miles before hitting the runway, then raised again at five nautical miles, resulting in the plane landing on its engines during its first attempt.

According to Khan, there was no technical fault with the aircraft, but the pilots were not focused on landing, as they were discussing the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the cockpit voice recorder showed the pilot and the co-pilot were discussing the virus throughout the flight.

“Corona was dominant over their mind. Their family was affected [by the virus],” he said, adding both the pilots and officials at air traffic control did not follow procedures.

Air traffic controllers urged the pilots to go around instead of landing because the plane was at an altitude of 7,220 feet 16 kilometres from the runway when it should have been at 2,500 feet.

“When they were in landing position, they were warned by the controllers, but he said, ‘I’ll manage’ and then they started discussing corona again,” Khan said.

The investigations into the crash have also uncovered that almost one-third of pilots in Pakistan may not be properly qualified, with Reuters reporting that 262 have been suspended following similar suspicions of exam cheating.

Featured image: iStock/Cristian Storto Fotografia

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