A senior pilot was asked to resign from SAA earlier this year after it was found that he had flown commercial airplanes for more than 20 years with a fake licence, Mail & Guardian reported on Friday.
SAA reportedly discovered that William Chandler's airline transport pilot licence had been forged.
This was reportedly after an investigation into a "reportable incident" on a flight he piloted.
The Mail & Guardian reported that that the incident involving Flight SA206 from OR Tambo International Airport to Frankfurt, Germany, occurred in November over Swiss airspace.
According to the paper, Chandler was the monitoring pilot (co-pilot) on the trip and had the controls at the time of the incident.
SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali reportedly said an investigation into the incident led to the discovery that Chandler's licence was fake.
In a statement issued on Friday, Tlali confirmed this saying Chandler had made false representations to the airline and claimed that he was qualified and had an Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL), when he only had a Commercial Pilot License.
"It is an SAA requirement that all pilots obtain an ATPL license within five years of their employment as pilots at SAA. This is linked to Senior First Officer status and forms part of their conditions of employment as regulated in the SAA Pilots Regulating Agreement. Any pilot failing to obtain this license, will have their employment terminated with the airline," said Tlali.
Promotion turned down
It also reportedly explained why Chandler opted not to be promoted to the rank of captain in 2005, as he would have had to submit his certification.
Chandler reportedly joined SAA as a pilot in 1994.
The airline now wants Chandler to pay back the money he fraudulently earned, including perks. This could run into millions, Tlali told the paper.
On Friday Tlali said that Chandler did not present a safety risk to SAA's operation as he was in possession of a valid Commercial Pilot Licence and was the commander of the aircraft.
“The pilot had successfully completed all required safety training. However, we find it disconcerting that misrepresentations were made about the type of license that the pilot claimed to possess,” said Tlali.
In 2010, a Swedish pilot who flew passenger jets for 13 years without a licence was fined R32 000 and banned from flying for 12 months, The Telegraph reported.
Despite doctoring his expired pilot's licence and being banned from flying for a year by a Dutch court, the court noted he had never caused an accident in the 13 years.
- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter