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Pakistan’s ailing national airline has sacked three of its pilots after discovering they had faked their qualifications.Asif Yasin Malik, the chairman of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), has also promised to launch an investigation to root out any other staff whose degrees turn out to be forged.
“PIA is a bleeding organisation at this juncture and needs some time for recovery before getting rid of fake degree holders and incompetent and corrupt officials,” he told a parliamentary committee investigating the airline’s performance.
The sacked pilots had flown thousands of hours for the airline including time spent flying government officials. One had recorded 25 years service.
PIA has lurched from crisis to crisis in recent years as its ageing fleet and bloated workforce haemorrhage cash. A report prepared for a judicial probe – launched after the country’s chief justice was delayed – found it had lost almost a billion pounds during the past decade.
On Sunday, passengers described seeing smoke billowing from an engine as a PIA 747 jet prepared to leave Karachi bound for Islamabad. Although the airline insisted there was no danger, merely a technical fault, it faced a barrage of criticism from ministers and parliamentarians on board the plane.
“Smoke billowing out of the burning engine escaped into fuselage after they opened the emergency exit hatch,” Maula Bux Chandio, political affairs minister, told a TV news channel. “It was so asphyxiating in there. I saw many passengers, who were not feeling well at all, gasping for air.” However, Pakistan’s fake degree scandal is nothing compared with India’s aviation problems. Last year it emerged that 57 Indian pilots had been caught with excessive alcohol in their blood before taking cockpit controls.
And in 2011, 14 pilots were dismissed when it was found they had used forged documents to obtain flying licences.