After it was discovered that he had a fake licence, South African pilot William Chandler had to resign. He had been flying for the past 20 years! He demonstrated that a licence is nothing more than a piece of paper.
After a “reportable incident” on a flight from South Africa to Germany, SAA discovered William Chandler’s paperwork was forged.
The airline has filed criminal charges against Mr Chandler and is seeking “millions of rand” in damages.
An SAA safety officer was also suspended for allegedly attempting to conceal the forgery.
Mr Chandler worked as a flight engineer for the state-owned SAA before becoming a pilot in 1994, according to the South African newspaper the Mail & Guardian (M&G).
He was a Senior First Officer, which meant he was a monitoring pilot who didn’t fly any planes.
He was, however, in command of a plane that “made some strange turns” after encountering turbulence over the Swiss Alps, according to sources.
Mr Chandler only had a commercial pilot’s licence, SAA said in a statement after investigating the incident. Later, he resigned.
For long-haul international flights, airlines require pilots to have an airline transport pilot licence (ATPL).
Pilots must pass several technical and medical exams as well as 1,500 hours of flight time to obtain an ATPL.
Every year, licensees must “refresh” their credentials through a series of tests that include flight simulations and physical exams.
The certificates are issued by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).
“What appears to have happened here is that the pilot would have taken what we’ve given them… and changed those documents to give the impression that they have an ATPL,” said SACAA spokesperson Phindiwe Gwembu.
Mr Chandler was said to have turned down a promotion to captain, which would have required him to reapply for his ATPL certificate.
Tlali Tlali, a spokesperson for SAA, said the alleged fraud was “suspicious,” but that it did not pose a “safety risk” because Mr Chandler still had his pilot’s licence and had completed safety training.
Mr Tlali went on to say that “necessary steps will be taken to recover the money that was improperly paid to him,” such as salary, overtime, and allowances.
SACAA stated that it was looking into any “loopholes” in its procedures.
The SAA also said in a statement that it had submitted all of its pilot licences to the SACAA for review and that it would now obtain licences from examination bodies rather than from individuals.
Since 2011, the airline, which is one of Africa’s largest, has lost money every year and relies on government assistance to stay afloat.
South Africa’s finance minister, Tito Mboweni, said at a US investor conference last November that the company should be shut down. President Cyril Ramaphosa, on the other hand, has promised to bring it back to life.