Disgraced pilot William Chandler will make an appearance in court following his arrest on Monday for flying for South African Airways using faked certification.
Chandler, a 40-year veteran at SAA, was arrested by police following a charge laid against him by the airline after it discovered his Airline Transport Pilots Licence (ATPL) was forged.
He appeared in the Kempton Park magistrate’s court on charges of fraud and was granted R5 000 bail. He is set to make a second appearance on May 14, when the state is expected to have completed further investigations, National Prosecuting Authority Gauteng spokesperson Phindi Mjobondwane said.
The Mail & Guardian reported two weeks ago that Chandler was found out following an investigation into a reportable incident on flight SA260 travelling between Johannesburg and Frankfurt, Germany last November.
A subsequent investigation of the incident, which includes verification of the crew’s certification, revealed the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) did not have him licensed for an ATPL despite him submitting, to SAA and inspectors, documentation claiming he had one.
Chandler’s fraud was immediately brought to the attention of Victoria Buxton, SAA’s Group Head for Safety, who investigated the incident for SAA. Instead of informing the national carrier and taking appropriate action, Buxton allegedly attempted to cover up for Chandler. Last week, the airline confirmed to the M&G that Buxton has been placed on suspension pending disciplinary action against her.
Through his forgery of a licence, Chandler was able to better his salary, position himself higher in SAA’s pilots hierarchy and co-pilot bigger aircraft on international flights.
Chandler became a pilot in 1994. According to SAA policy, he should gotten an ATPL by 1999, but instead presented a fake one. Chandler only has a Commercial Pilots Licence.
Discussions on aviation blogs ranged between those defending Chandler, saying technically he did not break any aviation laws because he possessed a Commercial Pilots License, to others who said he broke the law.
One commentator on Avcom said: “He forged a licence. A license that many people have bankrupted themselves for, sweated and strived for. Removing emotions around this aspect, what we are left with is a chap who knowingly and willingly altered a document to reflect something that was false. We cannot and should not tolerate this kind of attitude in the aviation industry.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the most serious matter and cannot be defended by any technicality. The bottom line is this person has brought into disrepute the one tangible thing that we use to keep our pax [passengers] safe, our aircraft safe and our food on the table with. The thing that says we have jumped through all the hoops, passed the exams, passed the flight tests and medicals … for. Our licence.”
Another had said: “If I was SAA I would issue a press statement to the effect that passenger safety and air laws were not contravened.
“The fraud was committed here was to get a higher pay with better privileges … The way the press has portrayed this issue is that he was a danger to passenger safety because he was not qualified for what he was doing. I beg to differ, he was a lot more qualified that someone with 200 hours on an advanced training system sitting in the same seat with the same actual license.”