A Chinese pilot has been grounded after a photo of a woman sitting in an airplane cockpit emerged on social media, sparking outrage over a breach of safety rules.
The photo, posted by the woman on the Twitter-like Weibo social network, showed her taking the pilot’s seat and making a V-sign while wearing civilian clothes. “[I am] super thankful to the pilot! I am really so excited,” the caption read.
According to CNN, the photo was spotted by a Chinese aviation blogger on Sunday. The blogger identified that the image was taken on an Air Guilin plane mid-flight, and criticized the airline for disregarding flight safety. The woman has since deleted the original photo on her Weibo account.
Air Guilin confirmed that the incident took place during a flight from the southern city of Guilin to Yangzhou, eastern China on January 4th 2019.
In a statement on Monday (04.11.19), the airline said it had suspended the unnamed pilot from flying duties “for life” for violating civil aviation rules, while other members of the flight crew had been banned indefinitely, pending further investigation.
The woman was identified as a student taking a flight attendant course at the Guilin Tourism University, according to the state-run People’s Daily. It is unclear whether she is personally connected to the pilot.
This is not the first time that pilots have violated air safety rules in China by inviting guests into the cockpit mid-flight.
In 2018, a pilot received a six-month suspension after he was found to have invited his wife into the cockpit three times during a Donghai Airlines flight, People’s Daily reported.
Airlines around the world have strengthened security measures relating to the cockpit entrance following the 9/11 attacks. Regulations issued by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also ban pilots from using smartphones for personal use – including taking pictures – when the plane is in the air unless they have gotten permission in advance.