A Chinese airline has taken disciplinary action against eight senior executives in a bid to stem the widening scandal over a pilot who let his teenage girlfriend sit the cockpit mid-flight.
The young woman, Chen Yuying, a third-year student at Guilin Tourism University, was reportedly in a relationship with the captain and wanted to be a flight attendant after her graduation.
Below the photo of herself sitting with what appears to be a drink on a tray in front of her and making the V for victory sign, she wrote: “I’m very grateful to the pilot! This is so exciting!”
The incident actually took place around 10 months ago, and when she initially posted the pictures they attracted little attention, until someone realised the plane had been flying at the time, which caused outrage among aviation experts.
All posts and pictures have since been wiped from her social media page on Weibo – the Chinese Twitter – following the scandal.
But by then the image was already going viral, and it ended up with the airline and flight being identified as flight GT1011 operated by Air Guilin, and the pilot was also identified.
The airline, a subsidiary of Hainan Airlines, then sent round a directive which is now been leaked in Chinese media that named the pilot for the first time as Su Chen and said the airline had urged the Civil Aviation Administration to revoke his pilot’s licence as well as banning him from flying for life.
But the document also reveals that eight senior executives had also been disciplined including Yue Ding, who was running flight operations, who lost his job, and Xu Xin, who is the chairman of the airline and who was given a “serious warning” over the incidents.
There were also six others who were also senior executives that were also disciplined including the general manager of the airline, the deputy general manger that was in charge of fleet maintenance, the safety director, the cabin and crew services general manager, the aviation security general manager and safety inspection general manager who were all given a “serious demerit” in their record.
The rest of the crew on board the 4th January flight, when the plane was travelling from Guilin, in the south-western region of Guangxi, to the city of Yangzhou in Jiangsu, were also punished including two co-pilots and two flight attendants, who have been demoted and suspended from flying for 12 months.
In a public statement, the airline said: “As a result of the information obtained, Air Guilin has given the pilot concerned a lifetime flying ban.”
They did not however specify whether the pilot had been offered alternative work in a capacity that did not involve flying. It was also unclear at the time of writing whether Chen’s studies at her university would be affected by the scandal.
They also said that the other members of the crew had been suspended and were no longer flying while further investigations were carried out.
They added: “Air Guilin regards the safety of our passengers as an upmost priority and we have absolutely no tolerance for anything that could be improper or unprofessional in their conduct and that might jeopardise their safety.”
China has strict rules regarding anybody who is not a member of the crew being in the cockpit where it is completely banned unless considered necessary for flight safety.
Only last year another pilot this time with Donghai Airlines was punished with a suspension for six months after he allowed his wife to enter the cockpit.
Airlines in China are often government-run. This one is a joint venture between the Guilin Municipal Government and the HNA Group.
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