Fake pilot copies Di Caprio film to get free flights

An Italian man has been arrested after flying as a fake airline pilot in a 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 home-made 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. Sirlo is the name of a flight corridor over Turin.

In the 2002 film, Leonardo DiCaprio played Frank Abagnale, a real-life con man 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 impostor 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 on Friday when he showed up at the check-in desk of Turin airport. He accompanied police to his home where they found fake identity cards, several pilot uniforms, an airport staff parking permit, training manuals and two fake resumes in his garage. He was charged with attempting to threatening air security and assuming a false identity. Lufthansa declined to comment.

The Daily Telegraph, London