Some stories write themselves, while others have already been written.

In the 1960’s Frank Abagnale Jr impersonated a Pan Am pilot, flying passengers around the world without a license. That story, made incredibly famous by Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio in the film “Catch Me If You Can”, seemed like something which could never happen again, given modern safeguards and digital background checks. In 2019, it’s happened again.

Just this week, a long haul pilot for South African Airways with 25 years on the job was exposed for using a fake license. The pilot originally held a commercial pilots license, but not the Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) required for all long haul pilots around the world. There’s a stark difference in the requirements, including physical and technical checks as well as a minimum 1,500 hours of flying time. It’s alleged that Mr. William Chandler forged the necessary documents, which would’ve been renewed every 6 months to one year.

Sunset aerial view through airplane window over wings. Flying at sunset and looking out of the window and enjoying the panoramic view. Travel and transportation conceptsFor Mr. Chandler, everything was going to plan for 25 years until a series of turns. It’s reported that an aircraft en route to Frankfurt, in which he was in command, made obscure turns over the Swiss Alps to avoid turbulence, an incident which required investigation. Once investigated, the elaborate rouse came to light. Mr. Chandler had been careful, even declining an illustrious promotion from Senior First Officer to “Captain” in recent years to avoid the scrutiny of resubmitting his ATPL license. In the end, the wind took him down.

The investigation has sparked an endless sea of “how could this happen”, and lead to the resignation of an airline safety chief, who is alleged to have been involved in a cover up attempt. Look for Catch Me If You Can 2 in cinemas near you, as soon as someone acquires the rights to this story. It should more than make up for the wages South African is attempting to recoup from Mr. Chandler, the most successful fake airline transport pilot in history.

HT: View From The Wing.

Featured image property of DreamWorks Pictures.

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