An unemployed man wore a pilot’s uniform to hitch a free ride in the cockpit of a commercial flight, Italian police claim.
The 32-year-old was stopped at Turin’s Caselle airport on suspicion of using false IDs, a cap and uniform to convince crew he was a qualified pilot.
He managed to fly for free inside the cockpit aboard a flight from Munich, Germany, to Turin in April, according to Carabinieri paramilitary police.
The two real pilots flew the Air Dolomiti plane while the man, who has not been identified, did not touch the controls.
The case is reminiscent of that of Frank Abagnale, who pretended to be a pilot, and whose story was made into a Hollywood film, Catch Me If You Can, starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role.
Italian police said they tailed the man, who called himself Andrea Sirlo on his Facebook page, for months after receiving a tip-off.
Two pilots flew the plane with the ‘fake’ pilot in the cockpit, police said
Detectives claimed the man stated on his profile that he was a commercial pilot who was promoted to captain’s rank while still young, and police became suspicious.
Officers are investigating whether there were any other flights on which he may have pretended to be a pilot.
Turin police spokesman Filippo Vanni said: ‘He’s so good that with his fake uniform, fake degrees and fake badge, he tricked a lot of people into believing he really was a pilot and also some crew members bought it.
‘That’s how he got a ‘lift’ on the Turin-Munich flight in the cockpit, actually in the seat reserved for special guests, behind the co-pilot.
‘He tried to create a new life for himself, where he could be accepted, gain friends and access a whole new social setting.’
A police statement said the suspect was held on suspicion of putting the security of air transport at risk and ‘usurping a title’.
He has been bailed while the investigation continues.
‘On at least one occasion in 2012, pretending to be a pilot of a foreign commercial airline, and with a fake name, he succeeded in flying as the third pilot in the cockpit,’ the statement said.
‘We know the case,’ Lufthansa spokesman Christoph Meier said. He declined to give any details, but said that even crew are unable to fly aboard one of the carrier’s planes without having a ticket, indicating that the Italian might have had a passenger ticket.
Italian police said the suspect, after they confronted him, led them to a garage, where officers found piles of neatly pressed white shirts with epaulets, black trousers and jackets which were similar to pilots’ uniforms.