Another Take-off

PIA’s journey, from ‘Great People to Fly With’ to a shameful situation, has been a story of corruption and failures. The nation’s pride in the airline must be restored.

By S.R.H. Hashmi | August 2020

Very early during their training in earning a private pilot’s licence, trainees are taught to take their flights seriously and remain alert all the time as unexpected things could happen fast. Maintaining proper height and speed is important at every stage of the flight and so is each take-off and landing. The exercise prior to landing includes putting one’s hand on an ashtray or something and saying aloud, “Under-carriage down and locked”, which seems meaningless because the small training aircraft have a fixed and not a retractable under-carriage. The idea is to get this step firmly implanted in the pilot’s mind, thus eliminating any chance of omitting it while flying a larger plane later, and meeting a disaster. Even while flying as a trainee private pilot, it is of utmost importance to follow the standard procedures, be extra careful during take-offs and landings, and not be cocksure at anytime during the flight. Of course, for commercial flying, the procedure is far more comprehensive.

PIA’s journey, from the glory of operating with the slogan ‘Great People to Fly With” - and justifying every word of it - to a shameful situation where I have seen letters titled “Great People to Die With” has been a great story of failures.

PIA commenced operations in 1955 with the transformation of Orient Airways into Pakistan International Airlines Corporation. Its Chairman was M.M. Ispahani while Zafar-Ul-Ahsan was its committed Managing Director who, during his four year tenure, put the airline on a sound foundation. When Air Marshals Asghar Khan and Nur Khan came, they took the airline to new heights, acquiring additional aircraft and starting new routes. Both had earlier served the Pakistan Air Force as Commander-in-Chief. PIA benefited immensely from Air Marshal Asghar Khan’s sterling leadership qualities. During his tenure, PIA achieved the lowest aircraft accident rate and highest net profit. PIA was a formidable competitor in the world airline business.

As for Air Marshal Nur Khan, former PIA employees say that while he was chief of the airline, during his surprise visits to various offices, he would even check the bathrooms and smelled the towels. He was an honest, competent and committed person who kept the biggest to the smallest detail under his constant watch. In fact, the spirit permeated all the way down to the lowest level of employees. One advantage that Nur Khan and his immediate predecessor and successor had was that they all enjoyed independence and faced no outside interference. Corruption was almost non-existent then.

Read More