Imposter pilot jailed for 3 years

A con man who faked pilot’s qualifications to get a job flying holiday makers to the UK has been jailed for three years.

Live updates

  1. Kerry Swain

Fake pilot jailed for forging licence & flying into Gatwick

A conman who regularly flew commercial aircraft in and out of Gatwick Airport was grounded today for the foreseeable future.

Michael Fay, aged 61, from Alton in Hampshire will be spending the next three years in prison. He had failed to turn up for sentencing earlier this year.

The former American air force pilot forged his papers to get a job with an airline based in Libya. He was caught when another pilot became suspicious. As Kerry Swain reports from Winchester Crown Court, the case has certain parallels with the story in the Hollywood movie 'Catch Me If You Can'.

The interviewee in the report is Detective Constable Chris Thorne from Hampshire Police.

Libyan airline's reaction after pilot jailed for 3 years

The Libyan airline which employed a former American Air Force pilot who had forged documents allowing him to fly as a commercial pilot have issued a statement after his conviction for the crime.

Michael Fay, 61, of Alton, Hampshire, was jailed for three years at Winchester Crown Court. He flew planes into and out of Gatwick Airport for Afriqiyah Airways, as well as operating flights in Africa and elsewhere in Europe.

Michael Fay was a highly experienced airline Captain and instructor, qualified on the Boeing B747 and Airbus A320 who had over 20,000 hours of flying experience. It appears that in the latter stages of his career Mr Fay made alterations to his Singapore licence so that he could continue his flying career.

– Afriqiyah Airways statement

In its statement Afriqiyah Airways said it also wanted to make the following clarifications regarding its dealings with the convicted pilot, including the following:

Afriqiyah Airways:

  • 1 ... was the first organisation to react when it discovered Mr Fay’s documentation was suspect.
  • 2 ... contacted the U.K. Authorities, collaborated fully with the U.K. police which facilitated his arrest at London Gatwick.
  • 3. ... subsequently provided detailed documentation leading to conviction.
  • 4. When Afriqiyah Airways alerted the U.K. authorities it became apparent that Mr Fay was already known to them and other organisations as a forger of documentation.
  • 5. The selection & screening process that was applied by Afriqiyah Airways has been reviewed by an expert, & has been found to be in line with the Airline standard screening for contract crew at that time. Additional precautions are now in place to verify the validity of international licences.


Con man pilot sentenced to three years behind bars

A man who forged a pilot's licence so he could fly commercial aircraft into and out of Gatwick Airport has been jailed for three years. Sixty-one year old Michael Fay was a former American Air Force pilot. He moved to Britain and lived in Alton in Hampshire.

Fay was convicted at Winchester Crown Court of faking papers to get a job with a Libyan airline. Our presenter Amanda Piper spoke to our reporter Mel Bloor about the case.

Click here for the reaction from Hampshire Police, who were involved with the investigation.

Fake pilot jailed for 3 years disregarded public safety

One of the police officers investigating the case of a man who faked his pilot's licence and went on to fly people in and out of Gatwick Airport has given his reaction to the case.

DC Chris Thorne of Hampshire Police said the case of Michael Fay, was one of a man who seemed to regard the licensing of pilots as a bureaucratic process that did not apply to him. Fay aged 61, and who lived in Alton, was sentenced to three years behind bars.

Con man may be trying to get work as an airline pilot

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. Any information as to his whereabouts should be directed to Hampshire Constabulary on 101 or, if overseas, local law enforcement.

– DC Chris Thorne from Hampshire Constabulary


Man posing as pilot is "a clever and resourceful man"

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.

– DC Chris Thorne from Hampshire Constabulary

Hunt for con man who posed as pilot

Police think Michael Fay has fled the UK Credit: Hampshire Police

A con man who faked pilot’s qualifications to get a job flying holiday makers to the UK is on the run after failing to appear in court for sentencing.

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, eight times.

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.

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.

Back to top

Latest ITV News reports