Catch me if you can… Oh, they did. Italy grounds its real-life 'pilot' con-man

Life imitates film – only this imposter proves to be not so convincing

The right suit and a properly-ironed shirt can get you into a surprising number of places, as one chancer masquerading as a pilot discovered when he blagged his way into the cockpit of a passenger jet.

Police in Italy have revealed how the 32-year-old unemployed man, who was arrested in Turin last week, flew in the cockpit of an Air Dolomiti plane from Munich to the northern Italian city on 6 April this year.

No motive has been suggested for the man's actions, but the incident immediately drew comparisons with the real life case of Frank Abagnale, a con-man who flew as a fake Pan American pilot in the 1960s. He was played by Leonardo Di Caprio in the 2002 Hollywood film Catch Me If You Can.

A police statement said: "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." Officials insist that he did not touch the controls. However, investigators are now trying to establish if the man flew on other planes.

The suspect was seized at a bar outside Turin Airport's check-in area. He was said to be sipping a coffee and dressed in a pilot's uniform. Investigators have accused him of endangering air transport security, and impersonation.

The fake pilot even led police to a garage containing neatly pressed white shirts with epaulets, black trousers and jackets, like those worn by pilots.

They also found forged IDs and fake flight theory manuals. Before his arrest, police had been tracing the suspect for several months after it emerged that he had created a fake identity as a Lufthansa pilot named Andrea Sirlo, complete with a Facebook page, which included fake flight attendant friends.

According to press reports yesterday, investigators were alerted after he introduced himself as a captain to a civil aviation lieutenant, who was immediately suspicious because he appeared too young for the position.

Photos on his bogus Facebook profile showing him posing in a pilot's uniform and dark glasses, enabled police to trace him.

It also emerged that a profile on the website that allows users to track the flights of pilots shows a "Pilot Andrea Sirlo" flying from Munich Airport to Turin on 23 October last year.

Air Dolomiti is part of the German airline Lufthansa, which declined to provide details when quizzed about the case. But its spokesman Christoph Meier insisted that even a staff pilot could not have boarded the plane without a ticket.

The incident is the latest that has seen Italian airport safety come under the spotlight. In July, security officials at Rome's Fiumicino airport were caught napping when a drunken Norwegian tourist fell asleep on his luggage and travelled down a check-in conveyor belt before finally being spotted on an X-ray machine.

Italy's civil aviation authority Enac asked Rome's Fiumicino airport operator to explain how the tourist was able to travel unchallenged for 50 metres on the luggage belt.

That incident occurred on 23 July – the same week as the "Rome Alone" case in which an 11-year-old boy was able to flight to Rome from Manchester, passing five security checks, by himself without any documents.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London