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Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority says airspace ‘safe’ after EU agency’s warning

The country’s airspace is “safe” for all kinds of flight operations, the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) said on Sunday, days after a European air safety agency warned airlines of “high risk” while flying at low altitudes in Karachi and Lahore.

The Aircraft Owners and Operators Association of Pakistan (AOOA) also disputed the safety warning, insisting that Pakis­tan’s airspace is safe and protected against intrusions.

In an advisory issued on Friday, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said that due to the current security situation in Pakistan “with the presence of violent non-state actor groups with confirmed anti-aviation weaponry, possibly MANPADS (man-portable air-defence systems)”, there was a continued possible threat to civil aviation resulting in high risk to operation at altitudes below flight level (FL) 260, or 26,000 feet.

The advisory, valid until Jan 31 next year, also mentioned that the “Kashmir region remains the site of a territorial dispute with sporadic military operations posing a potential inadvertent risk to civil aviation due to a potential risk for misidentification in case of military escalation”, particularly in the Lahore region.

The agency recommended operators not to conduct flights over Karachi and Lahore below FL 260, adding that operators “should take this information and any other relevant information into account in their own risk assessments, alongside any available guidance or directions from their national authority as appropriate”.

However, a spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority said that Pakistan’s airspace was safe for flights operation.

The AOOA also opposed the EASA’s safety circular to operators and urged its withdrawal. It said the advisory had “created an excuse to exclude Pakistan from economic activity by creating scares”.

“Pakistan airspace is 100 per cent safe and protected against any intrusions,” Imran Aslam Khan, the association’s CEO, said.

He stressed that the country’s airports were also safe for flight operations and several commercial and private flights were operating daily.