A Chinese airline has grounded a pilot for life after he allegedly allowed his teenage girlfriend to sit in a plane cockpit without authorisation mid-flight.
The as yet unnamed pilot who works for Air Guilin, which operates out of South China’s Guangxi region, would be banned from flying for life, and his colleagues suspended pending internal investigations, the airline said in a statement on 4th November.
The incident was sparked by a single image posted by 19-year-old aspiring flight attendant Chen Yuying, showing her sitting in the pilot’s seat and doing a peace sign.
The picture, in which Chen is seen in civilian clothing, was reportedly taken on 4th January during Air Guilin Flight 1011 from Guilin to the city of Yangzhou in East China’s Jiangsu Province.
It was found by social media users on 3rd November and quickly went viral after members of the public raised serious safety concerns over her being allowed into the cockpit seemingly unauthorised.
The teenager, who attends Guilin Tourism University, is reportedly in a relationship with the pilot in question.
She captioned the photo: “I’m very grateful to the pilot! This is so exciting!”
All posts and pictures have since been wiped from her social media page on Weibo – Chinese Twitter – following the scandal.
In its statement, Air Guilin said passenger safety was of “great importance”, and that the company had a “zero-tolerance policy” towards unprofessional conduct.
However, despite saying that the pilot had been grounded for life for violating civil aviation laws, the airline did not clarify whether he would remain an Air Guilin employee under a different capacity.
It was also unclear at the time of writing whether Chen’s studies at her university would be affected by the scandal.
Members of the public have called for Chen to face jail time as well as a fine for jeopardising flight safety.
It is unclear whether she will receive retrospective punishment.
According to Chinese civil aviation laws, civilians are not permitted in plane cockpits unless out of “necessity”.
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