More heads roll at Chinese airline over pilot who let young woman sit in cockpit during flight

Zhuang Pinghui

The fallout from the case of a Chinese pilot who allowed a young woman to visit the cockpit during a flight earlier this year deepened on Tuesday with a number of senior executives being subject to disciplinary action.

A leaked directive from Air Guilin, published in the news portal Thepaper.cn, 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.

The previous day the airline, based in the southwestern region of Guangxi, confirmed that the incident had taken place on a flight between Guilin and Yangzhou, a city in Jiangsu province, early in January and said it had given the pilot a lifetime ban from flying.

The latest document also said that eight senior executives had been subject to disciplinary action. These included Yue Ding, the general manager in charge of flight operations, who was removed from his post, and Xu Xin, chairman of the airline, who was given a “serious warning”.

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Six other senior executives – the general manager of the airline, deputy general manger in charge of plane maintenance, safety director, cabin and crew services general manager, aviation security general manager and safety inspection general manager – were all given a “serious demerit” in their record.

The executives who remained in their posts were also fined three month’s salary.

The rest of the crew on board the flight, including two co-pilots and two flying attendants, have been demoted and suspended from flying for 12 months.

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“Safe operations are the company’s top priority and the company has zero tolerance for any behaviour that might jeopardise flight safety,” read the directive. “Such incidents must not happen again.”

The incident prompted a social media outcry on Sunday after a Weibo user who works in the aviation industry spotted a photo that the young woman had posted on the site 10 months earlier.

The picture showed the woman, third-year Guilin Tourism University student Chen Yueying, sitting in the pilot’s seat while in mid-air.

Chen, who had hoped to train as a flight attendant after graduating, has now deleted her Weibo posts.

China’s flying regulation bans unauthorised passengers from the cockpit and pilots can only invite people to enter for safety reasons.

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