Fake pilot prompts scare at NZ airport

Fake pilot prompts scare at NZ airport

TV stunt

But it turns out that the incident at New Zealand’s Auckland Airport was an elaborate television stunt gone awry. And now three show producers are facing charges and the possibility, if convicted, of jail time.

The worry began on Saturday when police say a man dressed in a replica pilot’s uniform, complete with epaulets on his shoulders and silver wings on his cap, tried to gain access to a secure part of the airport before being challenged by ground staff. The man left the airport and escaped in a black Toyota van.

Police issued alerts for the man, complete with grainy security footage, saying the effort he’d gone to in trying to deceive staff and gain access was of “significant concern.”

The incident seemed reminiscent of the 2002 movie Catch Me If You Can, which recounts the true story of a young con artist who successfully poses as an airline pilot before being caught by the FBI.

Then the story took a turn. Police announced on Monday they had charged three unlikely suspects — a company director, a film producer and a broadcaster. The men are aged between 26 and 33.

Local television station TV3 then put out its own statement: The men all work on a comedy show called “Wanna-Ben.”

The premise of the show is that an unemployed man named Ben tries to find exciting work, like becoming a rock star or a fashion icon, and meets famous people along the way.

“I’m so sorry for all the trouble this has caused,” said Ben Boyce, the face of the show, in the statement. “We did not intend to breach security or cause any worry or concern. This was an attempt at humour which we fully accept was misplaced.”

The incident was quickly condemned at the highest levels.

“Look, I don’t know all of the details,” said New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key at a news conference. “But if it’s a stunt, then I think it’s irresponsible from a bunch of clowns who should know better.”

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