Airline Pilot Used Fake License for 25 Years, Exposed After Taking ‘Strange Turns’ Over Swiss Alps

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.

Copyright: tupungato / 123RF Stock Photo

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. He must have been a darned good pilot to get away with it for 25 years!

  2. I realize Mr. Leff has a longstanding grudge against United so is that why they are being mentioned as a “partner airline”? Any Star Alliance carrier is a “partner airline” so why not TAP or Lufthansa?

  3. All American airlines pilots need to be drug checked,And criminal background checks done on them monthly along with there polit licence being check every month ,Before flying plane’s this plan need ‘s to be mandatory for the polit aircraft worker’s for all ,American airlines in america!!!

  4. Because it’s an American blog, written in English, centered on an American audience. Listing United as the partner makes sense. Listing TAP seems largely irrelevant.

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