Fake pilot on run after fleeing fraud sentencing

Michael Fay: On the run. Picture: PA
Michael Fay: On the run. Picture: PA
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A CONMAN who faked a pilot’s licence to get a job flying holidaymakers to the UK is being hunted by police after he failed to appear in court for sentencing for fraud.

Michael Fay, 59, a US national who settled in Alton, Hampshire, worked fraudulently as a commercial airline pilot, flying passengers into Gatwick Airport without the proper licence and medical documentation on eight occasions.

The former US Air Force pilot was sentenced in absentia to three years in prison at Winchester Crown Court on Friday May 3 for fraud.

A Hampshire police spokesman said: “Police were alerted to Fay’s scam when another pilot became suspicious while chatting to him on an internet forum.

“He had been operating Airbus A320 aircraft for eight months on behalf of Libyan company Afriqiyah Airways at the time of his arrest on February 3, 2011, having forged his pilot’s licence and medical certificates.

“Fay is believed to have fled the UK and may be seeking work as a pilot or flying instructor.”

Hampshire Constabulary, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and overseas law enforcement are working together to bring Fay back to the UK to begin his sentence.

Detective Constable Chris Thorne said: “Michael Fay is a clever and resourceful man who clearly shows no concern for public safety if he’s willing to work without the correct licences and medical certification.

“He targeted Libyan aviation at a time when the country’s political and economic standing was vulnerable and volatile.

“Had it not been for the quick thinking of a genuine pilot on the internet forum, Fay may have continued to put the public at risk in this manner unnoticed.

“We are working closely with the CAA and other organisations outside of the UK to locate him and bring him to justice.

“Public safety is paramount so it is important people are aware that he may be trying to gain work as an airline pilot or flying instructor overseas.”

Fay worked for Afriqiyah Airways from June 1, 2010 to the day of his arrest, February 3, 2011.

A spokesman for Afriqiyah Airways said: “Afriqiyah Airways can confirm that Michael Fay was employed as a contracted pilot on our Airbus A320 aircraft.

“We are currently investigating this matter but we understand that his engagement with us may have been arranged through a third-party broker who should have vetted his documentation and credentials before recommending him as a contractor with Afriqiyah Airways.

“The apparent use of forged documents by Michael Fay to secure his engagement with Afriqiyah Airways has also made us an unwitting victim in his criminal endeavours.

“At no time did his behaviour or demeanour draw attention to his ability or competence to fly the aircraft either with his colleagues or the station staff at Gatwick.

“Since the resumption of the airline’s European services in July 2012, as part of our continuous improvement programme all flight-deck crews have been assessed for competence in the UK, Germany and other EU states by flight simulator checks and revalidation on type as necessary.

“As a major national carrier, we place great emphasis on the safety and integrity of our crews and aircraft, and we will treat the investigation of this matter with the utmost seriousness it deserves.”