Aviation authority looks at how SAA pilot got away with flying with fake licence
The South African Civil Aviation Authority (Sacaa) says it is conducting its own investigation to establish the loopholes that allowed a senior pilot to fly commercial airplanes for more than 20 years when his licence was fake.
Mail & Guardian reported on Friday that South African Airways (SAA) reportedly discovered that William Chandler's Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) had been forged.
This was after an incident occurred involving Flight SA206, which operated on an Airbus A340600 aircraft, from OR Tambo International Airport to Frankfurt, Germany, in November 2018 over Swiss airspace.
The flight encountered an atmospheric disturbance at high altitude over the Swiss Alps.
The airline said its robust safety procedures required that, in such a case, the crew involved be grounded and subjected to a thorough and comprehensive assessment and re-evaluation.
"There are three concurrent investigations into the circumstances of the SA260 incident by SAA, the South African Civil Aviation Authority (Sacaa) and the German authorities," SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said in a statement.
It was during an SAA investigation into the incident that it was discovered that Chandler, who had operated that flight, did not have an Airline Transport Pilot Licence - only a commercial pilot licence instead.
Chandler was asked to resign this year following the discovery.
Sacaa says it will conduct the investigation despite its view that Chandler's case was an isolated one.
"However, as the aviation regulator and the entity that issues pilot licences, we have earnest interest in this matter; and hence, we are also conducting our own investigation in order to establish where the loopholes are and whether there is a need to introduce additional counter measures," Sacaa's executive of corporate services, Phindiwe Gwebu, said.
She says the authority also wants to find out why the airline's systems had not picked up that Chandler had been flying with a fake licence for such a long time.
Gwebu says it is important that the authority undertakes the exercise of investigating, not only for safety reasons but to ensure that the prestige attached to a South African-issued aviation licence remains intact.
"Regardless, in cases where there was forgery or deliberate misrepresentation, criminal charges will be pursued," she said.
Gwebu said Sacaa also had the right to revoke the pilot's commercial licence.
It is keen to find out why the airline's systems had not picked it up for such a long time.
Earlier on Friday, News24 reported that Tlali confirmed Chandler had made false representations to the airline.
"It is an SAA requirement that all pilots obtain an ATPL license within five years of their employment as pilots at SAA. This is linked to Senior First Officer status and forms part of their conditions of employment as regulated in the SAA Pilots Regulating Agreement. Any pilot failing to obtain this licence, will have their employment terminated with the airline," said Tlali.