Star Alliance member and United Airlines partner South African Airways is promising to check the licenses of all of its pilots — and obtain copies from a government regulator instead of pilots just bringing in copies themselves — after discovering that one of their veteran long haul pilots had been using a forged license for 25 years.
Senior first officer William Chandler was flying Johannesburg – Frankfurt, in control of the aircraft as it “made some strange turns” after encountering turbulence as it flew above the Swiss Alps.
This led to an investigation, during which it turned up that the pilot lacked the proper license. He had a commercial pilot’s license but not the required airline transport pilot license which allows him to work long haul international flights.
He’s been working as a pilot for the airline since 1994. The proper license would have required several exams, as well as annual tests.
“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,” said Phindiwe Gwembu, an SACAA spokesperson.
Mr Chandler had reportedly refused a promotion to captain that would have required him to resubmit his ATPL certificate.
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The airline is going after the pilot for the excess wages he earned from his position. A South African Airways safety officer has been suspending for helping to cover up the forgery. And the airline has “submitted the licences of all its pilots” to the government to be checked and in the future will only accept licenses directly from the regulatory body rather than asking pilots to just give them copies.