A conman forged a pilot’s licence and medical certificates to get a job flying airliners into Gatwick Airport.
Michael Fay, 59, an American who settled in Alton, Hampshire, spent eight months piloting an Airbus A320, landing at Gatwick.
He is now being hunted by police after he failed to appear in court to be sentenced for fraud. Fay is believed to have fled Britain and may be seeking work as a pilot or flying instructor, police said.
Fay, a former US Air Force pilot, worked for Afriqiyah Airways, the Libyan national carrier, and made eight landings at Gatwick between June 1, 2010, and his arrest, on February 3, 2011. Police were alerted to his fraud when another pilot became suspicious while talking to him on an internet forum.
The conman was due to appear at Winchester Crown Court on Friday, May 3, but failed to appear. He was sentenced in absentia to three years in prison.
Detective Constable Chris Thorne, from Hampshire Police, said: “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.”
An international hunt for him is under way and the Civil Aviation Authority has been alerted.
The fraud came shortly before the collapse of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, which owned Afriqiyah Airways. It resumed its European service in July 2012 after losing safety accreditation during the conflict in Libya.
Medium-range A320 jets seat 144 passengers in two classes.
Detective Con Thorne added: “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.”
The company said Fay’s employment “may have been arranged through a third-party broker” who should have checked his documents. A spokesman added: “We place great emphasis on the safety and integrity of our crews and aircraft, and will treat the investigation of this matter with the utmost seriousness it deserves.”