PAKISTAN’S aviation industry, once reputed for its professionalism, has been under a dark patch for the last almost 15 years, with dangers of international censure haunting it.
The lack of credible investigation into the Airblue and Bhoja Air crashes should have been enough to warrant a shakeup of the CAA and its management. Whatever the cause that led to PIA’s ATR-42 skidding off the Lahore runway in light rain with no significant wind, the closure of main runway for over 30 hours exposes professional problems in the CAA, the body assigned to regulate air transport on behalf of the ICAO in Pakistan.
The ATR-42 is a relatively small aircraft. Can somebody imagine how many weeks would the CAA have taken in case, God forbid, this accident had involved a bigger aircraft like B 777 or B 747?
The CAA charges a phenomenal amount as landing fee and passenger tax from airlines that land on airports run by it. In fact, the CAA’s regulatory functions are compromised by the fact that it runs and owns all the major airports in Pakistan except Sialkot airport.
This conflict of interest has jeopardised its primary role of a regulator since in case of an accident or incident, involving commercial aircraft, either or both the airline operator and airport authorities who administer the operation of active runways and the navigational aids that help in landing and in case of in-flight accidents the en route navigational aids and air traffic control, all vest with the CAA.
There is no shortage of funds with the CAA, which is one of the most profitable state-owned enterprises. The unfortunate reality is that this very lucrative financial bonanza of the CAA has become its biggest impediment, with both the powerful ministry of defence and successive governments eager to have their share of the pie.