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'Pilot' resigns after flying for 20 years with fake licence

Published:Saturday | March 2, 2019 | 12:00 AM
A South African Airway 'pilot' flew for 20 years with a fake licence

A pilot has resigned from South African Airways (SAA) after flying for more than 20 years with a fake licence.

The airline said it discovered William Chandler's paperwork was forged after a "reportable incident" during a flight from South Africa to Germany.

The airline has filed criminal charges and is seeking to recover "millions of rand" “unduly” paid to Chandler, including salary, overtime and allowances

In addition, a safety officer employed to SAA has been suspended for allegedly trying to cover up the forgery.

Tlali Tlali, a spokesperson for SAA, said that the alleged fraud was "disconcerting", but insisted that it did not pose "any safety risk" because Chandler had a flying licence and had completed safety training.

SAA revealed, too, that it has since submitted the licences of all its pilots to the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) for evaluation.

The airline also indicated that going forward it would obtain licences for its pilots from examination bodies rather than individuals.

South African newspaper, the Mail and Guardian (M&G) reported that Chandler worked as a flight engineer at the state-owned SAA before getting a job as a pilot in 1994.

The airline said Chandler was a Senior First Officer, a role in which he monitored pilots, but did not command any aircraft.

However, the M&G, citing sources, reported that Chandler was in control of an aircraft that "made some strange turns" after encountering turbulence over the Swiss Alps.

The SAA said in a statement that after investigating the incident, it found Chandler had only a commercial pilot's licence.

Pilots are required to have an airline transport pilot licence (ATPL) for long-haul international flights.

To obtain an ATPL, pilots must pass several technical and medical exams and complete 1,500 hours of flying time.

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