South African Airline pilot flew for 20 years without a licence

William Chandler, who became a pilot with South African Airways (SSA) in 1994, possessed a commercial pilot's license but not the Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) that South Africa's civil aviation authority requires for long flights.

According to the Mail & Guardian investigative journalist Sabelo Skiti, SAA discovered that its pilot William Chandler had no certification to allow him to operate bigger aircraft or fly long distances.

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.

A safety officer at SAA has also been suspended for allegedly trying to cover up the forgery.

South African Airways is pressing criminal charges against a former pilot who had been operating worldwide flights with forged credentials.

The flight encountered an atmospheric disturbance at high altitude over the Swiss Alps.

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.

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Nanga Parbat is the world's ninth highest mountain and a number of deaths have earned it the nickname of "killer mountain". She died in 1995 aged just 33 during a descent from the peak of K2 in the Himalayas and her body has never been found.

Airlines require pilots to have an airline transport pilot licence (ATPL) for long-haul global flights.

In fact, he had taken tests for a much less rigorous pilots' licence that does not qualify the holder to fly for airlines.

"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.

"SAA has suffered actual financial prejudice and has opened a criminal case of fraud against that pilot", a spokesman for SAA said in a statement obtained by Bloomberg. In addition, the airline will pursue civil claims to recover money spent on him.

SACAA said it was investigating any "loopholes" in its practices.

Last November, South Africa's finance minister Tito Mboweni told a U.S. investor conference that the firm should be shut down.

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