Florida Woman Allegedly Hacked Flight System, Cleared Unsafe Aircraft to Fly

A Florida woman has been charged with allegedly hacking into a flight school's computer system and authorizing unsafe aircraft to fly in 2020, just months after she left the business.

Derek Fallon, the CEO of Melbourne Flight Training, said he learned about the hack on January 12, 2020 when he logged onto a computer and noticed that there were several errors, WESH-TV, a local television news station, reported Monday.

He noticed that the make, model and tail numbers of 12 airplanes were deleted and that planes previously flagged as having maintenance issues were cleared to fly, WESH reported.

According to an affidavit obtained by WESH, "aircraft which may have been unsafe to fly were purposely made 'airworthy'."

Fallon also said that inspection limitations were deleted, WESH reported. Fallon said that he instructed all flights to be grounded until the correct information could be restored.

"Between the time the data was altered and fixed, it was a situation that could have endangered human life," Fallon said in an affidavit.

Two suspects have since been identified—a man who previously worked as the flight school's director of maintenance and his 26-year-old daughter Lauren Lide, who had previously worked as flight operations manager at the company. The man, who was not identified, was fired in November 2019, and Lide resigned that same day, WESH reported.

Investigators allegedly found that a login belonging to the current flight operations manager was used to alter the status of the planes, but that manager signed an affidavit saying he didn't change information, WESH reported.

Authorities discovered the IP address used to access the software belonged to Lide's father, who reportedly told investigators he "didn't have a clue" why his computer was used to login to the company's software.

When asked if he knew anyone who might want to access the computer information, he told authorities, "I'm kinda concerned about my daughter at this point."

He alleged Fallon made Lide "miserable" and lied to her," WESH reported.

"She couldn't wait to get out of there," he said, according to WESH. "You guys don't understand the torment he put her through."

Detectives determined that Lide is one of the only people in the area who had the "knowledge, skills and ability" to change the flight records. She was charged with accessing a computer electronic device without authority and modifying computer data programs without authority.

A 26-year-old Florida woman is facing multiple charges after she allegedly hacked into the computer system of a Florida flight school and clearing unsafe aircraft to fly. Here, a plane is seen in Washington in November 2020. Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Newsweek reached out to Melbourne Flight Training for comment Tuesday morning but had not heard back by publication. This story will be updated with any response.