This is why you don’t fly in Third World nations…

… unless you have at least one First World pilot in the cockpit.  That’s been a hard-and-fast rule of mine for decades, and I think it’s one of the reasons I survived living and working in the Third World for as long as I did.  I know I’m far from alone in observing that precaution, too.  Many of my friends and colleagues did likewise.

From CNN:

More than 30% of civilian pilots in Pakistan have fake licenses and are not qualified to fly, the country’s aviation minister revealed Wednesday.

Addressing Pakistan’s National Assembly, Ghulam Sarwar Khan said 262 pilots in the country “did not take the exam themselves” and had paid someone else to sit it on their behalf.

“They don’t have flying experience,” he said.

Pakistan has 860 active pilots serving its domestic airlines — including the country’s Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flagship — as well as a number of foreign carriers, Khan said.

PIA has grounded all its pilots who hold fake licenses, effective immediately.

There’s more at the link.

It’s not just Pakistan.  There are incompetent and/or inadequately-trained and/or completely untrained pilots in many Third World countries, where a bribe to the examiner can ensure that you pass written tests and check flights with little or no difficulty.  The results are obvious if you examine accident statistics for those countries.  The number of accidents put down to “pilot error” is phenomenal – and in many cases it wasn’t error so much as incompetence.

Even pilots who are qualified may not fly in a way that we regard as competent.  The number of Third World pilots who “fly a checklist”, heads down in the cockpit, never looking outside to see what’s going on, is astonishingly high.  Note, for example, the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 in San Francisco in 2013.  The pilots basically flew the aircraft into the ground, because they were too busy with their heads down in the cockpit, not looking where they were going!  (Even First World airlines and pilots aren’t immune to such incompetence.  Look at the crash of Air France Flight 447, where one pilot constantly held his stick back even as another was trying to push his forward.  The conflicting stick inputs meant the aircraft literally fell out of the sky and crashed, because the flight computer couldn’t figure out whose stick to obey.)

That’s why pilots from most Third World nations, coming to the USA to upgrade their licenses, must start the gamut of qualifications all over again, from private pilot, through instrument rating, through commercial license, and only then be allowed to sit for an airline pilot’s rating.  I know this causes immense resentment among those of them who really are qualified, and may have thousands of hours flying experience in modern airliners – but they’re hamstrung by the multitude of unqualified, incompetent pilots among them.  The US aviation authorities dare not assume that everybody from Nation X or Country Y is, indeed, qualified, because they’ve learned from bitter experience that many of them are not.

Please keep that in mind when you fly overseas.  It may save your life.



  1. All of that is also true for maintenance standards as well and the world is full of counterfeit parts. In the middle of all that US based carriers have ushered in the golden age airline safety. It's been a decade since a US based carrier caused a passenger death. Note that the 737 max crashes were not US based. The bad part is that the US flight crews, attendants, maintainers and other staff who have accomplished this are the ones being hurt by the shutdown when in reality we should be saluting them.

  2. This problem is headed for America. In case you haven't noticed, graduation requirements for people of Certain Races are being removed. They don't have to be competent in their fields. Doctors and lawyers and engineers will all be suspect once they get into the general population.

  3. The false credentials are also depressingly common in the IT world, especially from the bucket-shop universities of India.

    1. I have grown tired of Dirt Floor U. "graduates". All they do is prolong problems and make qualified people want to give up due to frustration.

  4. It's part of human nature. We're going to see similar things happen in USA when the hard times get here. Probably start going sideways in October…

  5. As @SimonJester says, it’s in other fields, too. “Equivalency” barriers to licensure are falling all the time, for political correctness.

    You no longer have to prove you’re competent, only that you have a diploma in your field. How you got your diploma, by effort or brown paper bag, is not under consideration.

  6. What Mickey said about foreign pilots and the 737 MAX. US and 1st World and 2nd World pilots had no problems flying the MAX. Only 3rd worlders, and then they blamed Boeing for a fault that was known and the way to handle it was to not let the plane fly itself in certain conditions. Airbus has the same limitations, yet they get away with it.

    Not saying Boeing didn't put out a less-than great computer product. But that's what happens when you rely on a 2nd World or 3rd World Coding Factory to assemble the coding for your plane.

  7. Hey Peter;

    We are starting to have the same problem in our field also to Have an A&P you have to read and comprehend English, but the people "getting their License" get it through Miami or other places and there is a huge language barrier we are having to deal with and if anything is said, we are told that we are "racist" for mentioning that the person can't read the technical publications to sign off their work. but they have their A&P

  8. As people in the industry well know, the airline in question's acronym translates as "Perhaps I Arrive" …

  9. I flew one flight with a co-pilot from somewhere in west Africa. ONCE. Never again. What chafes my butt is he has a U.S. green card. He's still employed in the southwest.
    t to a
    I remember reading journals from a pair of Americans traveling in Africa during the 1970s. They said the same thing as a chief pilot I knew who had spent his early years delivering aircraft throughout Africa. Flying with turd world pilots was taking your life into unknown territory. Flying carries risk. But these turds take it to much higher levels.

  10. Horry crap. Mr. Garibaldi reminds me of the English language requirement. What a joke that is. I don't know about present day but many flight schools send thousands of foreign pilots across the U.S. skies who can barery speki engrish. I once ran across a Chinese national here for flight training who carried a Chinese/English Aviation dictionary even on his flights.

    I remember being on freq when a Chinee pirot came on to ramble through about 3 minutes of indecipherable babble. ATC replied, Whatever you just said, just do it.

    Then there was the time I was in IMC on ILS final when a commuter nearly rammed me out of the sky. ATC queried him: What are you doing now! You're supposed to be on the VOR approach! Pirot: No, I done with that, me fly ILS now. The thing is, he joined the localizer about 1/2 mile outside of me and kept his speed up. ATC told him to put E at the top of his heading indicator and exit the airspace. I had already gone missed and made a turn for the published hold.

    That airline got their ass chewed.

    Also, Sky West again. One of their pilots straight from Uganda caused such a cluster on taxi that ATC cancelled his clearance and said return to the gate with a number to call.

  11. Check blancolirio on his u-tube channel (he's an airline pilot on medical leave). He's been covering the recent PIA crash . Those pilots may fit this description. Amazing lack of piloting skills, it appears.

  12. I've flown Garuda Indonesian and Cebu Pacific airlines during the 90's. I've wondered about the pilots of these kinds of airlines. I've also wondered about the maintenance people as well. A lot of these airlines do dodgy maintenance.

    China Airlines, which I flew a LOT between Japan and Taiwan, used to have a major crash every two years. It turned out that the manuals put out by Boeing were written only in English and the maintenance personal read Mandarin Chinese only. They often did not perform the maintenance tasks they were supposed to if they couldn't read what they had to do. These problems went away after a crash in '02 when China Airlines was placed under management of Singapore Airlines (which is top line).

  13. I am reminded of Lawdog and one of his African stories involving the Russian (?) pilot who grabbed a chimp, stuck a cap on it, strapped it in as his co-pilot took off.
    I still smile and chuckle at his Africa stories.

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