A teenage boy from Yorkshire succeeded in persuading British aviation executives that he was a tycoon about to launch his own airline. Using the pseudonym Adam Tait, the smooth-talking 17-year-old told airport and airline executives that he had a fleet of jets.
Tait, who said he was in his twenties, even flew to Jersey to attend a 1½-hour long meeting with the director of its airport. Their talks were considered promising enough for a further meeting to be arranged, which was due to be held next week.
Other air industry bosses found themselves dealing by telephone or e-mail with Tait’s fellow executives, David Rich and Anita Dash, who proposed to launch a cut-price Channel Islands-based airline servicing most of Europe.
What no one realised was that Tait, Rich and Dash were all the same person: an aircraft buff with the gift of the gab and an overactive imagination.
The Yorkshire teenager’s six-month-long ruse, which included placing articles in industry magazines, foundered only after one publication, Airliner World, became suspicious. It started to unravel the complex network that Tait had set up of fake websites, “virtual offices” complete with a real telephone receptionist and bogus names.
Last Monday he was questioned by Essex police while trying to gain access to a 93-seater jet at Southend airport, having convinced the plane’s marketing agent that his “company” wanted to lease it.
The police, who had intervened after being tipped off by Airliner World, discovered the boy’s true identity. Although no further action was taken, his fantasy was finally grounded.
The Sunday Times has agreed not to use Tait’s real name at the request of his father, who did not know of his son’s exploits until he was contacted last week.
He said that his son suffered from a form of autism and was “a phenomenal individual who is enterprising and creative” with an ability to recall the exact detail of every airline’s flight schedules. But the autism also made his behaviour highly challenging.
“He has been passionate about aeroplanes for about two years and his whole bedroom is plastered with them,” he said.
“Before that he came within two days of bringing the US cast of High School Musical to a 300-seat theatre in Shropshire by cutting and pasting mastheads from one company to another, masquerading as this or that.
“It would have happened, except when booking the hotel some queries were thrown up. I don’t know why he did it. He is not nasty or vindictive or malicious.”