The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) is investigating to establish the loopholes that allowed a senior pilot to fly commercial airplanes for more than 20 years with a fake licence, press reports have said.
According to the report on Wednesday, the state-owned South African Airways (SAA) discovered that William Chandler's Airline Transport Pilot Licence had been forged.
The discovery was made 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 report said.
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 and the German authorities," SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said.
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, the report said, quoting the SAA.
SACAA said it would 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 executive for 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.