The preliminary investigation report into the May 22 crash of PK-8303 almost entirely pinned the blame on pilot error. The findings are being disputed by Palpa, the PIA pilots’ union, but the grounds for that opposition are weak. Palpa claims that none of their pilots were included in the investigation team, even though pilots and engineers qualified to fly and work with A320s, foreign investigators, and Airbus representatives were part of it. The publically-available air traffic control records also seem to support some degree of pilot error, while the report notes some mistakes on the part of the ATCs as well.
Regardless, the findings will provide little solace to the families of the victims, or indeed the survivors. Instead, coupled with the aviation minister’s comments in parliament, they paint a picture of recklessness and nepotism. Instead of continuing with the talk of taking PIA back to its glory days, it is becoming even more apparent that the time to put the airline out to pasture has passed. At this point, it needs to be put down. For reasoning, we could compare the airline to a prize-winning horse that went lame, but, given that PIA kills people, we think a much-loved but now-rabid pet dog is a better comparison.
According to the aviation minister, over 30% of pilots are not even qualified to be flying planes, according to the minister. Meanwhile, the staff to plane ratio is among the worst in the world, meaning that most PIA employees are getting paid to do nothing. The government continues to pay the airline massive subsidies which would better be rerouted to health and education. As for the fact that PIA flies to some far-flung areas, profitable routes — mostly for tourist destinations — will be quickly lapped up by private airlines, while unprofitable ones are still accessible by road and rail. The only losers here will be politicians from these areas that fly for free. They can drive for free instead.
Indeed, the only reason to keep PIA alive is for politicians to make illegal appointments at lower levels and ex-servicemen to get cushy post-retirement jobs at higher levels.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2020.
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