Saturday, 2 March 2019

SAA pilot had a fake licence and flew......for more than 20 years

Photo bellanaija
In an amazing tale of subterfuge, a South African Airways pilot has been forced to resign his position with the company after flying for the airline for more than 20 years on a fake pilots licence.

Amazingly the situation only came to light after a reportable incident occurred on a flight from Johannesburg to Frankfurt in Germany last year and was being investigated. During flight SA206 an incident occurred over the Swiss Alps while William Chandler, a senior first officer at the time was the 'pilot flying' the aircraft. The exact details of the incident have not yet been made public although are said to have included some bizarre and unusual aircraft movements. 

Whilst the flight was being investigated by officials at South Africa's leading airline, the financially troubled South African Airways, it discovered that William Chandler only had a commercial pilot's licence and not the required airline transport pilot licence (ATPL) for long-haul international flights.

According to local reports, Chandler has often refused promotions that would have made him a captain, as this would have required him producing his ATPL.  Chandler took up the role of a pilot with SAA during 1994, prior to that he was a flight engineer with the state-owned airline.

It is unclear exactly how or when Chandler first made the switch as for an ATPL, pilots must pass several technical checks and have a medical exam as well as complete 1,500 hours of flying time - some of which must be taken at night. Each year pilots undergo a set of extra tests and flight simulations to refresh their knowledge and licence.

Photo South African Airways
The ATPL certificates are given out by the South African Civil Aviation Authority and a spokesperson for the organisations said, "What seems to have happened here is that the pilot would have taken what we have issued to them... and would have changed those documents to give an impression that they are in possession of an ATPL," 

Chandler has resigned from his job and SAA is currently taking legal action against him to recoup some of the money it paid him in the form of wages, allowances and overtime payments. And whilst this seems to be an isolated case, the airline has said it has resubmitted the licences of all its pilots to the SACAA for evaluation.  In future, a spokesperson for the carrier confirmed, they would get pilots licences from the actual examination bodies rather than the individual pilots themselves.

A full investigation into what happened is underway by the SACAA, with the express intention of closing any loopholes that may exist in current procedures