Amid controversies surrounding the licences of several Pakistani pilots, which have also led to the suspension of Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) authorisation to operate in European Union (EU) member states and the United Kingdom (UK), a newspaper clipping pertaining to the launch of army’s Askari Airline has left Twitterati in doubts.
“Preparations for the launch of Askari Airline completed; licence issued,” read the undated Urdu newspaper clipping making the rounds on the internet.
It added that “the chief of army staff (COAS) would inaugurate the project that was in its final stages owing to the efforts of the Army Welfare Trust (AWT)” — Pakistani conglomerate also known as Askari Group of Companies — and mentioned details of the airline’s fleet.
The clipping drew the ire of a majority of netizens who attempted to draw a link between the downfall of the national carrier and the alleged impending launch of Askari Airline, compelling The Current to look into the claims.
According to prominent aviation journalist Tahir Imran, Askari Airline was given approval a few years ago, which suggests that the clipping is not a recent one.
When contacted, Imran said that Askari Airline was among six new airlines that had applied to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for regular public transport (RPT) licences in 2018.
“These airlines are Liberty Air owned by Chaudhry Munir and Mian Amir, Go Green Airways owned by Elahi Group, Askari Air owned by AWT, United Airways Pakistan Limited owned by Adnan Tabani, AirSial owned by the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Afeef Zara Airways owned by Rashid Siddiqui,” he said, adding that even though they had been granted licences, no other airline except AirSial was for now in a position to launch flight operations.
“But even AirSial faces an uncertain future as its launch scheduled for May 2020 has indefinitely been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic among other reasons. It might see the light of day by 2020’s end… but everything depends on how the current situation pans out.”
To a question regarding the fate of Askari Airline, Imran said that no appointments in this regard had so far been reported, let alone any progress towards its launch. “Askari, as well as other upcoming airlines except AirSial, lack the required infrastructure for now and their launch within the ongoing year doesn’t seem possible.”
ASKARI AVIATION SERVICES:
Speaking of Askari Aviation Services (AAS), he said it was run by AWT and its activities included domestic and international travel as well as transportation by Askari Charter Services (ACS), ground handling services at Islamabad airport by Askari Airport Services (AAPS), domestic and international air travel ticketing by Askari Travel & Tour (AT&T), ground, cabin and flying training of fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft by Askari Flying Academy (AFA) beside aircraft and helicopter maintenance and operation services through Askari Aviation (Pvt) Ltd (AAL).
“In addition to its integral fleet of helicopter and aircraft, AAS also enjoys the backing of Pakistan Army Aviation and is providing international charter services to the army for its United Nations (UN) peacekeeping troops deployed around the world,” he said.