Five people who took ‘fake it till you make it’ too far | #WhoAmI | Life Links | DW | 17.10.2014
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Five people who took ‘fake it till you make it’ too far

Talking yourself up in an interview is one thing. Flying commercial jets without a pilot’s license or building an airport without being a qualified engineer is another. Here are five people who went too far.

1. High flyer: the fake pilot

For more than a decade, Sweden’s Thomas Salme flew passenger jets without having a commercial pilot’s license. Having worked for several major airlines, he never once caused an accident. When police arrested him in 2010, he explained that he had taught himself how to fly by reading technical manuals and using flight simulators.

2. Engineering disaster: Alfredo di Mauro

In 2014, German magazine Stern dropped a bombshell: Alfredo di Mauro, one of the engineers responsible for Berlin’s much-delayed new airport, had never qualified in his discipline. According to the publication, he’d only trained in technical drawing. The airport is currently two years behind schedule and 2 billion euros over budget. Ouch.

3. The great impostor: Ferdinand Demara

Ferdinand Demara, also known as “the Great Impostor”, was described as an uneducated but highly intelligent person on a quest to become “somebody.” On his journey to find himself, he worked under a series of stolen identities, including: a monk, prison warden, doctor, civil engineer, lawyer, teacher and philosophy professor. He even faked his own death after being disappointed by life as a soldier.

4. Tall tales: Tania Head

Tania Head claimed to have survived the 9/11 terror attacks in New York. As a member of the World Trade Center Survivors' Network support group, she told her vivid story of escaping the Twin Towers to the press as well as to Ground Zero tour groups. In 2007, the truth was exposed. Her real name was Alicia Head, she was Spanish, and on the day of the attacks she was in Barcelona attending university.

5. Catch me if you can

Frank Abagnale grew up in Bronxville, New York and became one of the most famous impostors of all time. By the age of 19, he had successfully impersonated an airline pilot, a lawyer, a doctor, and earned million of dollars by forging checks. His life story was turned into the movie “Catch me if you can,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio. He now works for the US government and lectures at the FBI Academy.

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