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FAKE PILOT SCAM. Did you think a pilot’s license and training are at least some kind of a guarantee for a safe journey?
Nobody could guess the dark secret of Swedish pilot Thomas Salme: He had no pilot’s license. But for thirteen years, he navigated the skies as an airline pilot, much like the character in the 2002 Hollywood blockbuster movie Catch Me If You Can about Frank Abagnale Jr who presented himself as a pilot go gain benefits.
But Thomas Salme did it for real – until 2010, when the Dutch Airline Police finally found out about his secret. He had been faking both his CV and flight certificate, a small shortcut from the beginning that accelerated and grew in size over time.
His story has now become a book, titled “A Fake Pilot’s Confession”, to be published by the Swedish publishing house Norstedts. The book partly accuses him for being a mythomaniac. But in an interview with the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, Salme defends his actions, and also claims they are all for real.
“I wasn’t trying to kill people, but taking them from point A to point B in a safe manner. And I succeeded with that. You should know that I was one hell of a pilot. Or put it this way: I was lucky – and has talent,” Salme says to the newspaper.
The paper asks the obvious question how he could learn to fly an airliner.
“I have studied, read manuals and listened to the flight radio since I was nine years old. I spent hundreds of hours at my flight simulator at home, I’ve flown in real-time around the world countless of times.”
Thomas Salme actually holds an A type license, which provides the right to fly small planes. But nothing even close to a big airliner.
His fake credentials landed him a job at Italian airline Air One, among others, and Thomas Salme moved to Milan, where he lives today. With a family to provide for, it became harder and harder to get out of the lie of his life. It came to last thirteen years. Now, he wants to start a new career as a press photographer.
“I needed the money,” he says. “When I was blown I had already begun taking photos. My plan then was to continue flying a few years more, and then to become a full-time photographer.”
Today, he is rather proud than ashamed for his lie. “Nothing dangerous happened. I never crashed once,” he says in the interview.