The year is 2010 almost a decade before the Pakistani pilot’s licence scandal broke. A fake Swedish pilot has been flying across Europe with a license he printed out at home using a photocopier. It gets even more interesting that Thomas Salme, 41, was made a captain in three years after he faked his license to gain entry into Scandinavian airline Air One. He was arrested in March 2010 at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport as he was about to take off as a captain of a Corendon Boeing 737 carrying 101 passengers on a flight to the Turkish capital Ankara.
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Thomas Salme was prosecuted and fined £1,700 by a Dutch court as well as a ban on flying for 12 months, which rejected the prosecutor’s request for a three-month suspended jail sentence. Thomas confessed that he has been flying the planes for the past thirteen years without a licence. The Dutch police were alerted by a tip from Swedish authorities, said the man had once had a private pilot license, but it had expired and it never qualified him for passenger flights.
Thomas Harry Salme was born on 18 February 1969 in Stockholm. Salme worked for Scandinavian Airline SAS in 1997 as a maintenance engineer but had no experience as a pilot. One of his friends gave him off-hours access to one of the flight simulators at Stockholm Arlanda Airport where he had learned to fly passenger jets. He told German magazine Focus that ‘I’d train there for two or three hours at a time – at least 15 to 20 times over one and a half years,’.
After that he applied to the Italian airline company Air One to be a co-pilot, using false papers and a forged ID number, and surprisingly he was hired. He told German magazine Focus that ‘I got the crackpot idea to apply as a co-pilot at a real airline so I made myself a Swedish flying permit with a logo out of regular white paper. It wasn’t laminated, and looked like something I’d made at home.’
He further said that ‘It was surprisingly easy. The documents look different everywhere in Europe. An Italian airline doesn’t know what a Swedish license looks like. And you can forge all the IDs you need.’
Within 3 years after joining Air One, he was promoted to captain and kept on working for Air One until 2006. After working for 9 years he moved to the Turkish and Dutch airline company Corendon Airlines, where he worked as a Captain. After one year he moved to work for British low-cost airline Jet2 on contract. After spending ten months he moved back to work for Corendon, where he regularly flew passenger jets for another two years. Salme has 10,000 flying hours in the air while flying without a valid commercial pilot’s license.
According to The Times and the South China Morning Post, this was one of a series of fake resume scandals as a result of which airlines and other employers tightened their vetting procedures with regard to resume claims made by job applicants. Corendon Airlines tightened its vetting procedures for hiring pilots in the wake of this scandal.