Three arrests after fake pilot scare at airport
PALOMA MIGONE, MICHELLE ROBINSON AND MICHAEL FOX
Television personality Ben Boyce has appeared in court with a radio DJ and a television producer following an incident involving a man masquerading as a pilot at Auckland Airport.
The three men, Benjamin Ross Boyce, 33, Bryce Anthony Casey, 32, and Andrew Logan Robinson, 26, appeared in the Manukau District Court today.
Boyce is half of the comedy duo Bill and Ben formerly of Pulp Sport, Casey is a radio DJ on The Rock radio station, and Logan is a television producer.
Court documents said all three were charged under the Civil Aviation Act with "as part of a security check conducted by an Air New Zealand employee, providing information that he knew to be false in an attempt to gain access to a secure area in Auckland Airport''.
Bail was granted with the conditions that the men not go to Auckland Airport or associate with Crown witnesses.
The prosecution did not pursue a non-association clause as the men all work together.
A reappearance date was set for October 18.
In a statement released by TV3 owner MediaWorks this afternoon, Boyce said he was "very sorry for all the trouble this has caused''.
"This was an attempt at humour which we fully accept was misplaced.
"I cannot say how sorry we all are."
MediaWorks said the incident was for a sketch on the Wanna-Ben show, and the company had not known of it ahead of time.
"Obviously we would never encourage or condone any illegal activity,'' the company said, adding the three men had contacted police as soon as they realised there was concern.
Prior to the arrests, Prime Minister John Key said he suspected the airport incident was a prank.
But this afternoon he came out and slammed the stunt.
"If it's a stunt, then I think it is irresponsible from a bunch of clowns who should know better."
"Quite frankly we are in the middle of hosting a rugby world cup and if these are people who are just playing games, they need to grow up."
Boyce is known for a number of stunts related to his "comedy" career, including running for Parliament.
His partnership with Bill and Ben teammate Jamie Lineham ended last year and he has since started a new show.
Casey's profile on The Rock website asks him what is the dumbest thing he has ever done.
"S..., way too many - it's usually a weekly affair."
A spokeswoman for Mediaworks - which owns TV3 - said this morning before the arrests that the Wanna-Ben crew were meeting with police.
If convicted, the accused face up to 12 months in jail or a fine of up to $10,000.
Detective Superintendent Andy Lovelock said a police investigation began soon after a man dressed as a pilot tried to access the restricted airside area at the domestic terminal at 2.30pm on Saturday.
"As a result of the investigations carried out the three men will appear in the Counties Manukau District Court this afternoon. Further enquiries will continue," he said.
"I wish to acknowledge my team of investigators who have worked tirelessly to bring about a result in this enquiry. I acknowledge Civil Aviation, Aviation Security, the media and the public too for their consequential support to Police. There has been magnificent cooperation from all concerned."
Airline Pilots' Association aviation security coordinator Paul Lyons said this morning that, if the incident was the result of a television stunt, he would like to see those responsible "behind bars for a short time of reflection".
"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."
Lyons said it was "heartening" that the man masquerading as a pilot was not allowed to enter the airport's restricted area.
Pilot's Association president Glen Kenny expressed concern at the similarity of the uniform to a real pilot's.
"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."
HISTORY OF PRANKS
TV3 show Pulp Sport mixed sport with comedy and was hosted by Jamie Linehan and Ben Boyce. Pranks were a core part of the show.
In 2004, it hired a plane to fly an offensive message aimed at Sky rugby league commentator Stephen McIvor over a Warriors game in Auckland.
Neither McIvor nor police considered it funny, and Linehan and Boyce received a police warning.
Some of the show's other pranks have been:
* Trying to sneak beer into a sports stadium where there is an enforced alcohol ban;
* A weekly clip of an unknown man, streaking at inappropriate events such as a lawn bowls or golf;
* A segment in which one host, dressed as a sportsman, deliberately commits anti-social acts such as getting invited into a netball game, then throwing the ball over the fence;
* Using the stereotype that people of Asian descent are poor drivers. Someone of Asian descent commits anti-social acts driving (hitting) a golf ball, where it is likely to upset people.