Saturday 16 November 2019

Fake pilot arrested after conning way into cockpit in a homemade uniform

Josephine McKenna in Rome

An Italian man has been arrested after flying as a fake airline pilot in an escapade reminiscent of Leonardo Di Caprio's role in the film 'Catch Me If You Can'.

The 32-year-old, who used the name Andrea Sirlo, created a false identity as a Lufthansa pilot and uploaded photographs of himself in uniform on Facebook.

He exchanged messages about his flights with 400 'friends', including imaginary flight attendants. Wearing a homemade uniform and using forged identity cards, 'Sirlo' flew in the cockpit as a third pilot free of charge on at least one flight from Munich to Turin.

He also created a Twitter account giving himself the title 'First Officer Lufthansa'.

Police said they were alerted after 'Sirlo' introduced himself to a civil-aviation lieutenant who thought he was too young to be a captain.

In the 2002 film, Leonardo DiCaprio played Frank Abagnale, a real-life conman who is said to have posed as a pilot to fly more than a million miles on more than 250 Pan Am flights in the 1960s.

"I saw that film and I wanted to be like Frank Abagnale," the fake pilot reportedly told police.

Questions were being asked about whether he flew as an imposter on other occasions, although he apparently told police: "I flew free on only one flight. On that occasion they invited me into the cockpit as third pilot."

'Sirlo', who was said to have a criminal record for offences including fraud, was arrested when he showed up at the check-in desk of Turin airport. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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