The unnamed man, who was going by the name Andrea Sirlo, tricked his way into the cockpit of at least one jet by posing as a pilot. He was arrested at a bar in Turin airport wearing a homemade pilot’s uniform and with forged ID cards on his person, police said.
The case mirrors that of the US conman Frank Abagnale Jr, who flew more than a million miles on over 250 flights to 26 countries in the 1950s after securing a PanAm uniform by fraud and forging a pilot’s licence. Spielberg’s 2002 film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Abagnale Jr, was based on the latter’s time as a conman. “I saw that film and I wanted to be like Frank Abagnale,” the fake pilot reportedly told police.
“Sirlo”, 32, was arrested on Friday. Police had been hunting him for several months after a civil aviation lieutenant told police he had met a man who introduced himself as a captain but looked too young to be a pilot. The unnamed man had created an identity for himself with Germany’s Lufthansa airline and flew on at least one Air Dolomiti flight from Munich to Turin as a third pilot. Air Dolomiti is owned by Lufthansa.
The man had set up Facebook and Twitter profiles for his pilot’s identity, and the former featured several photographs of him posing in uniform and sunglasses in front of planes. Police later found further fake ID cards, several pilot’s uniforms, training manuals, an airport staff parking permit and two fake CVs in a garage at his home. He was later charged with attempting to threaten air security and assuming a false identity.
Lufthansa has refused to comment on the case. “Sirlo” is the name of a flight corridor over Turin.
Watch the video, broadcast on CBS on Sept. 24.