Pilots union: Send TV crew to jail

Ben Boyce from the TV3 show 'Wannaben' along with other members of the production team, confront the media outside the Manukau District Court, Auckland. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Ben Boyce from the TV3 show 'Wannaben' along with other members of the production team, confront the media outside the Manukau District Court, Auckland. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Three men involved in a TV stunt gone wrong say they're sorry but the pilots union says they should go to prison for trying to breach airport security and the Prime Minister has told them to "grow up".

Benjamin Boyce, 33, Bryce Casey, 32, and Andrew Robinson, 26 appeared in Manukau District Court today charged with breaching the Civil Aviation Act following an incident at Auckland Airport on Saturday.

They did not plead and were remanded to reappear in court on October 18.

Casey allegedly dressed as a pilot in a rented costume and tried to get into a restricted area at the airport.

He left after being turned away by airport staff.

The skit was filmed as part of a sketch for a rugby-themed special of comedy series Wanna-Ben, produced by Yoink Productions for TV3.

After their court appearance today, the trio stood together outside court to say sorry. A statement from TV3 also carried an apology from the men.

Boyce, formerly of Pulp Sport, is the star of Wanna-Ben, Casey is a DJ for radio station The Rock and Robinson is a television producer.

Boyce said the pilot hoax was a harmless skit that had escalated.

"As soon as we found out the police were investigating, we got in touch with them," he told reporters.

Casey, identified as the man in the fake pilot uniform at the terminal, said the trio did not mean to breach security or cause any worry.

The penalty for breaching the Civil Aviation Act is 12 months imprisonment or a fine not exceeding $10,000.

Airline Pilots' Association aviation security co-ordinator Paul Lyons plumped for imprisonment.

"Incarceration for a short time, for a time of reflection, would be appropriate I would think," he said today.

'If these people think that security matters are to be treated in a frivolous and humorous fashion, and for an attempted breach to occur on the basis of humour, we don't see that in a humorous way at all."

Airports were serious workplaces and, while everyone liked "a good laugh", security was taken seriously.

Prime Minister John Key labelled the men "clowns".

While he did not have the full details, "if it's a stunt, then I think it's irresponsible from a bunch of clowns who should know better", Mr Key said.

"We're in the middle of hosting a Rugby World Cup, and if these are people who are just playing games then they need to grow up a bit."

MediaWorks said it did not know details of the shoot before it took place.

It issued a statement after meeting police today.

"Obviously we would never encourage or condone any illegal activity. We will be monitoring the progress of this matter through the courts and making decisions accordingly."

Staff from the production company had been spoken to about the incident and TV3 said it was "satisfied the company did not intend to breach airport security nor create a major security alert".

Fans of the programme came out in support today, posting comments such as "where'd you get the pilot suit?" and "awesome airport stunt" on the show's Facebook page.

Wanna-Ben will reportedly screen as scheduled on TV3 on Saturday night. It was not known whether the pilot skit would air at some point in future.

Past pranks

Benjamin Boyce's previous show Pulp Sport was known for its pranks pushing the legal limits. He received a police warning after hiring a plane to fly an offensive banner over a Warriors game in Auckland in 2004.

On another MediaWorks channel's programme, a comedian used a prank to generate publicity and fame for his television show. Guy Williams posed as a spokesman for the fake organisation Commercial Whaling New Zealand last year, a move filmed as part of a series Quest for Fame which screened on television channel C4. He told media the idea came from producers and writers working for C4.

- NZ Herald

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