KARACHI: A very senior and highly influential pilot of Pakistan International Airlines caused a serious air safety hazard when he operated a Trans-Atlantic long haul flight without mandatory rest, putting the lives of over 350 passengers to unnecessary risk in April, it emerged on Sunday.
Sources said the national flag carrier did not check the violation of air safety rules though the PIA spokesperson claimed a thorough inquiry would be conducted into the incident that happened in the first week of April.
The sources said no punitive action was taken against the pilot, Qasim Hayat. The PIA did not share information about the inquiry with the media despite the passage of over three weeks.
This was not the first such incident of compromise on air safety as another pilot, Amir Hashmi, had been involved in such violation at least twice in the past, the sources said. They added that no punitive action had been taken against him, lending courage to other pilots to put the life of air travellers at unnecessary risk.
They said the record of pilot Qasim Hayat (ID No: 38790) was far from ideal / satisfactory. During his tenure in office as the PIA director (flight operations), he did not take any punitive action against Mr Hashmi, also the chief of Pakistan Air Lines Pilots Association (Palpa), who had violated at least twice the law regarding 24-hour rest.
Even the Civil Aviation Authority did not take any punitive action against Mr Hashmi for violating the CAA law — Air Navigation Order (ANO) — which prescribed at least 24-hour rest for the crew before they operated long flights, the sources explained. The rest was made mandatory because fatigued crew could lead to a disaster, the sources said.
They said Islamabad-based pilot Qasim Hayat was scheduled to fly from the capital on April 5 to Lahore, where he had to stay and take rest for around 39 hours before flying to Toronto on April 7. But the PIA pilot preferred to delay his travel to Lahore until April 6 night. While he reached Lahore in the late hours of April 6 via PK 655, he did not take complete rest and embarked upon the journey to Canada early next morning (April 7). By doing this, the senior pilot exposed the life of over 350 Toronto-bound passengers to serious and unnecessary danger, the sources said.
When the airline was asked by Dawn about the departure and arrival time and date of the Islamabad-Lahore flight that the senior pilot had taken and the departure time of the Lahore-Toronto flight in the first week of April, the PIA did not answer initially. But after repeated requests by this reporter to get an answer, PIA spokesperson Aamir Memon said: “Your query highlights the concern PIA considers sacrosanct. We are verifying the matter in all areas of airline operations and will conduct a thorough inquiry and take appropriate action.”
Attempts to approach Mr Hayat could not succeed as he left for the US to spend his vacation soon after his return from Canada to Pakistan on April 10.