A pilot who worked for South African Airways (SAA) for more than two decades was arrested by the South African Police Service (SAPS) on Monday over allegations of him flying passenger jets without an advanced commercial flying license.
William Chandler was forced to resign recently after the airline found that he had been flying without the proper qualifications. He was arrested and charged with fraud and appeared in the Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court in Gauteng, South Africa. Chandler was released on a 5,000 rand bail ($350) and is scheduled to appear in court on May 15, SAPS spokesperson Brig. Vishnu Naidoo said.
According to the SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali, an investigation into Chandler was opened after they discovered inconsistencies in the details of his Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL). He, however, has a valid Commercial Pilot License (CPL) which allows him to operate commercial flights legally. While Chandler claimed to have the ATPL that would have permitted him to fly large passenger aircrafts, he only had a CP, which allowed him to fly smaller aircrafts and did not require as much training.
“He made false representations to the airline about his ATPL and worked for the airline longer than he ought to have been at the SAA. Other pilots who did not have ATPL after five years of joining the airline as pilots had their employment terminated,”Tlali said.
Chandler was an employee with SAA from 1994 till he was forced to resign. However, the airline did not reveal how long Chandler flew without the needed license nor did it reveal the number of passengers or aircraft he had flown. Chandler reportedly opted not to be promoted to the rank of captain in 2005 as it would have required him to submit his ATPL certification.
A report by Mail and Guardian, a South African daily, quoted sources as saying that this refusal should have rung bells since the pilots who joined the airlines with Chandler had become captains by 2005 while he still remained a senior first officer (SFO).
The airline discovered Chandler’s fraud during the investigation of a “reportable incident” on one of the flights he piloted. The incident involved Flight SA206 from OR Tambo International Airport to Frankfurt, Germany, and occurred sometime in November 2018 over the Swiss airspace. According to Ugandan newspaper Daily Monitor, Chandler was the co-pilot of the Germany bound flight and had to perform a recovery maneuver when it encountered turbulence. The crew of the plane was grounded and evaluated in accordance with the safety procedures, which was when the fraud was discovered.
Calling it an act of dishonesty through which Chandler kept a job he was not entitled to, Tlali said, “The airline suffered financial prejudice through his conduct.”
The airline wants Chandler to pay back all the money he earned while working with it, including the perks. According to Tlali, this could go to millions. The SAA said it would seek to recover “millions of rand” that Chandler fraudulently earned since 1994. The airline has also suspended the highest-ranking official who was responsible for safety since he allegedly tried to cover up for Chandler. Internal investigations against both Chandler and the official were ongoing.