Michael Fay
Michael Fay, 59, is believed to have fled to his native US. .

A conman is on the run after being found guilty of forging a pilot's licence to secure a job flying passengers into Britain on the state-owned Libyan airline.

Michael Fay, 59, remains at large after failing to appear at Winchester Crown Court on Friday 10 May to be sentenced for fraud. He was sentenced in absentia to three years' imprisonment.

Fay, a former US Air Force pilot who settled in Alton, Hampshire, spent eight months piloting an Airbus A320 flying passengers into Gatwick Airport.

He is believed to have fled the UK, and police warn he could now be seeking work as a pilot or flying instructor abroad.

Detective Constable Chris Thorne of Hampshire police 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."

The case has echoes of the film Catch Me If You Can starring Leonardo DiCaprio, where a conman travels the world posing as a pilot.

Fay was employed by Libyan state carrier Afriqiyah Airways from June 2010 until his arrest in February 2011. Police were alerted when another pilot raised the alarm after speaking to him on an internet forum.

Hampshire Constabulary, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and overseas law enforcement are working to trace Fay and bring him to justice.

Det 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.

"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."

Afriqiyah Airways, based in Tripoli, operated domestic services as well as international flights to 25 countires before the civil war. It resumed its European service in July 2012.

A spokesman for the company 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.

"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 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."