More than 30 percent of pilots in Pakistan are using fake licenses and aren't qualified to fly, according to new information from the country's authorities.
The alarming revelation was made by the Pakistani aviation minister, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, following the grounding of 262 airline pilots who are suspected of dodging their exams.
Khan said civil aviation officials had been colluding with pilots since 2018, assisting them in avoiding any exam process.
The minister said the pilots "did not take the exam themselves" and had instead paid someone else to take them.
"They don't have flying experience," he said.
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) confirmed at the weekend it would be grounding pilots with 'dubious' licences.
The crisis may not be limited to just Pakistan. Vietnam officials have confirmed around 12 pilots flying for airlines in the country who had done their training in Pakistan had also been stood down.
Despite having been discovered, the false license scheme may have already proven deadly.
Investigators examining the May 22 crash of PK8303, operated by state-run PIA, were the first to come across evidence of the issue after looking into the behaviour of the pilots of who had failed to follow standard procedures, ignoring warnings and alarms.
"The landing was undertaken with landing-gears retracted," the preliminary crash report says.
"The aircraft touched the runway surface on its engines."
The pilots then got the aircraft airbourne again, planning a second attempt at landing - however the engines had been so badly damaged, they failed within minutes.
The crash killed 97 people.
The 262 grounded pilots include141 from PIA, nine from Air Blue, 10 from Serene Airline and 17 from Shaheen Airlines, which is no longer flying.
New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority has told Newshub there is no evidence any of these pilots are in this country, and procedures including a flight check must be completed before a pilot can fly in Aotearoa.