BREAKING NEWS: Police have arrested and charged three men for their respective roles in trying to get a man masquerading as a pilot on to a plane at Auckland International Airport.
The charges, under Section 56A of the Civil Aviation Act 1990, relate to providing false information to ground staff at the airport on Saturday.
The penalty for this offence is 12 months imprisonment or a fine not exceeding $10,000.
The Auckland men, who include a 33-year-old company director, a 26-year-old film producer and a 32-year-old broadcaster, are to appear in the Manukau District Court this afternoon.
Detective Superintendent Andy Lovelock says an investigation began soon after the fake pilot, believed to be part of a MediaWorks film crew, tried to gain access to a restricted area at the Domestic Terminal.
3News earlier reported the imposter was Wannaben star and former Pulp Sport host Ben Boyce, but it is now believed it was an extra from the Saturday night comedy show.
A MediaWorks spokeswoman said she understood the show's crew were meeting with police this morning.
"So we're not able to comment until that meeting's been concluded."
She could not comment on whether MediaWorks management was aware of the plan beforehand.
Earlier today, a pilots association security worker said he wanted to see a TV crew "behind bars for a short time of reflection" after attempting to get a fake pilot onto a plane.
Airline Pilots' Association aviation security co-ordinator Paul Lyons slammed the attempt by a MediaWorks film crew to gain access to a restricted area at Auckland Airport at 2.30pm on Saturday.
"I think it's ridiculous that a film crew should try a stunt like this in a secure setting.
"It's one thing to be pulling stunts on people at their workplace, but to be carrying on at an international airport where security issues are real is demeaning, and quite frankly outrageous."
The fake pilot left the airport when Air New Zealand staff at the gate refused to let him board without the required photo identification.
Police described the man as a European in his late 20s or 30s, more than 1.8m tall, and of medium build. He had brown hair and distinctive tattoos on his forearms.
He was wearing a white shirt with epaulets with gold bands, a dark tie, blue trousers, dark shoes, a dark cap, a silver-winged badge and was carrying a large black briefcase.
A Civil Aviation Authority spokesman said they were awaiting the result of the police investigation and would not comment.
"They're obviously treating it as an important matter and we want to see what actually did happen," he said.
Aviation Security Service general manager Mark Everitt told Radio New Zealand the man was seen getting into a waiting van.
Everitt defended the fact the imposter was allowed to leave the airport without security being called. He said airport staff may have believed he was a pilot due to his uniform and the excuse he used for not having proper ID.
"The issue of a person being in a uniform could have meant that the staff members may have believed that the person was a pilot because there was a discussion around the identification...
"And the explanation given as to where the identification card was. I can't comment further than that," he said.
"The person then left that area with instructions to get that identification or verify it through the Aviation Security Service."
All airport staff were required to carry the ID, he said.
Everitt wouldn't say whether the possibility that it was a prank was being considered, or on suggestions the man was spotted giving the thumbs down signal to someone in the van.
The airport had beefed up security as a result, with pilots briefed to expect further checks, he said.
"The outcome will be more inconvenience for genuine airport workers and pilots in terms of their verification if you like as they report to duty and move through airports in their day."
Earlier today Prime Minister John Key said he suspected the incident was a prank but Pilot's Association president Glen Kenny expressed concern at the similarity of the uniform to a real pilot's uniform.
"It's heartening to know that when someone does something as serious as trying to impersonate a pilot, they didn't get anywhere with it," Kenny said.
However, he said he was concerned that the uniform looked "pretty close" to authentic when such outfits were "incredibly difficult to come by".
"Air New Zealand consider the sale and distribution of their uniforms a very serious matter, and go to great lengths to track them - old and new," Kenny said.
"You don't tend to see pilot uniforms in a costume hire place.
"They're so rare you'd almost have to manufacture it yourself and then you'd struggle, hopefully, to make it look right."
The manager of one of Auckland's biggest costume shops, First Scene, said they hadn't hired out the uniform in question but said such costumes were easily distinguishable from the real thing.
"People who know what uniforms are supposed to look like can just tell instantly," costume manager Jacqui Whall said.
Most uniforms were fairly plain though people could add to them to make them look more realistic.
Whall said she did not think it was possible to hire or buy an authentic pilot's uniform in Auckland.
She was not aware of any of their costumes being used in such a manner in the past.
"That I know of, we've never had anybody hire anything and end up in police custody or anything like that," she said.
Police spokesman Detective Superintendent Andy Lovelock said yesterday the effort the man went to get to the airport's restricted area was of "a significant concern".
However, Lovelock said this morning police were not commenting further and hung up, while an Air New Zealand spokeswoman said the incident was now a police matter and refused to comment.
Auckland University of Technology journalism lecturer Greg Treadwell said such a stunt for television ratings was "a bit sad".
"I think it's such a sensitive issue, this is unfortunate timing, not funny and pretty teenage-type stunt to be honest."
He said there were times for the media to test such things but said this particular incident was "dangerously provocative".
With the Rugby World Cup in full swing, he said he was not worried about this story being picked up by global media and reflecting New Zealand in a negative light.
"I guess it would be unfortunate if the overseas media treat it as more serious than it really is... Even if that did happen we'll live with it. We take a fair amount of mocking from the world on a variety of things from sheep to whatever and it's just another one of those."
- Fairfax NZ