Cabin crew on an international flight have caught a passenger impersonating a pilot. It is believed the man has done the same thing before.
The incident, which happened aboard a Dragonair flight to Malaysia, was disclosed by a flight attendants’ union and reported by Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post. The suspect is said to be a young man, 18 to 20 years old, and the incident occurred on 31 March 2016 on flight KA691 to Penang.
Rebecca Sy, chairperson of the airline’s flight attendants association, said the suspect wore a uniform similar to that of a pilot, with white shirt and shoulder epaulettes, black trousers and black tie – as he approached the airport’s boarding gate.
His luggage tags and lanyard carried logos of Cathay Pacific, Dragonair’s parent company.
The suspect told staff he had just finished manning a flight from San Francisco, and asked to speak to the pilot after the plane touched down in Penang, the paper reported.
Flight attendants’ suspicions were aroused when the man ordered a Bloody Mary cocktail, which is not available on the menu. When the man failed to provide a staff identification number, flight attendants went on alert and made sure he didn’t get anywhere near the cockpit during the flight.
On landing in Penang, a Malaysian security squad met the plane, took the man away and conducted a full overnight search of the aircraft.
The South China Morning Post said it was not immediately clear whether Malaysian police had charged the man, but it noted, disturbingly, that the suspect is believed to have “previous records of impersonating a pilot”. Hong Kong’s Civil Aviation Department has been notified of the incident and is contacting Dragonair for more information.
Bogus pilots and pilot impersonators are rare but airlines need to be vigilant. In 2010, police at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport entered the cockpit of a B737 jet belonging to Turkish registered low-cost carrier Corendon Airlines. They arrested a bogus pilot just as he was about to take off for Ankara with 101 passengers aboard.
In that case, the impostor was charged with flying passenger planes for 13 years with a false licence – so he obviously knew how to fly, or had learned along the way. That is not always the case.
Written by Peter Needham