Teenager with Asperger's hoaxes UK aviation industry with fake airline

Steve Silberman sez, "An 'enterprising and creative' 17-year-old with Asperger syndrome convinced British aviation officials that he was launching a new airline. Posing as a visionary global entrepreneur -- his email .sig files read 'American Global Group, 35 Countries, 22 Languages, One Team' -- he used phony websites and human engineering to arrange meetings with airport directors and book a local appearance for the 300-person US cast of 'High School Musical.' "
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...

"Some of the things he said were the sort of things that were indicative that there might have been some substance to his claims," said Coupar. "If they were real then there would have been opportunities for us to expand our business and that's not the sort of thing we are going to ignore."

Tait also made approaches, with varying levels of success, to other airlines, including Titan Airways and Aer Arann.

When he made contact with Jersey airport, his patter was convincing enough to effect a 90-minute face-to-face meeting with Julian Green, the airport's director, who said last night: "Jersey airport can confirm it has had discussions with Adam Tait over recent weeks about an ambitious network of services between Jersey, the UK and Europe.

Teenager wings it with a fake airline (Thanks, Steve!)


  1. Lots of new business ventures don’t quite come together. If you’re 17 then it’s a “hoax”?

  2. “So what does Asperger’s have to do with any of this?”

    I think it’s probably relevant to motive. Airlines are apparently his circumscribed interest.

  3. Could someone with a good enough theory of mind to pull this hoax really be accurately described as having Asperger’s?

  4. Nelson.C: It’s possible, though unlikely given his age, that he’s clever enough to rationally determine the social rules to make up for his deficit.

  5. Aspergers is part of the “spectrum disorder” of Autism, which means that there are a number of different ways that it can present. One normally thinks of “aspies” as being socially awkward and perhaps even non-verbal. But another way some aspies present is with an obsessive interest in particular topics on which they can be incredibly engaging. And because they know a lot about the topic, they can be very convincing if they decide to use their knowledge to pull some sort of scam. Generally these scams aren’t for personal financial gain or glory, but to further their own knowledge – in this case, likely because he wanted to meet with all those people and learn more about the industry.

    There have been a number of cases that are similar to this, though perhaps not at this scale. And so many of them have to do with buses, trains and planes that it’s commonly referred to as a “transportation fixation.” There was a guy in New York not too long ago that I remember reading about who had managed to convince employees of the MTA that he was a conductor and took a subway for a joyride. Apparently he was pretty good at it too.

  6. “Could someone with a good enough theory of mind to pull this hoax really be accurately described as having Asperger’s?”

    I don’t know that he would really need that. Despite all the comparisons in the article, he doesn’t seem like a con man. That people believed him was probably just a combination of him knowing the details of the business, and the fact that it didn’t occur to anyone that someone might want to fake starting an airline. No real manipulation required.

  7. Oh. Wonderfull. Now people with Asperger’s aren’t even allowed to have Theory of Mind?

    Ok people, listen up. Stop reading media reports about what Asperger’s is like. They’re almost all distorted and cover only a particular segment of the Asperger’s population.

    Go read some books on the subject. Preferably the ones written by the Aspies themselves.

    Or aren’t Aspies allowed to write books either?

  8. My son (10) has Aspergers. My wife and I always say his fantasy mind and logical mind don’t seem to blend. For example, one day at the health club I lost my wallet out near the pool, after 10 minutes of not finding it, our son told this story of how he saw it floating on the edge and went in to the drain on the side of the pool. When we asked if he was making this up, he was like “no honestly I saw it!” We found it when leaving-in the car.
    The point is, he really in his mind, believed it. When you live with it you see that they really do believe what they say. It is another part of their brain at work. From my experience, this kid didn’t realizing that his fantasy about starting an airline was unreasonable. He believed he could. Our son can negotiate like its no ones business, and thrives in deal making- making up his own new rules in monopoly etc.
    (we have another son and boy can you see the differences)

    He wanted to, and knew about airplanes, so why not, in his mind?- Trust me, that is his thought pattern. We, as parents work with our son everyday on reality with him. ( for example, “I know you are not done building your lego ship, but the movie theater will not wait for you- we gotta go. life does not work that way son.” Not everyone homeschools or has both parents to check up on the adventures of an Aspee like we do.
    There are degrees of it too.

    Watch Trekies-i think its called , the Star Trek convention documentary, you can see that some of them are Aspergers grown up and they believe, in some way they are part of a StarTrek crew and dress that way everyday.

  9. I just couldnt help but laugh at this. I have aspergers (supposedly) and I was able to affect/influence people at a very young age. At 7-8 I was completely able to keep up in conversations with adults. I think the kid had a novel idea that he wanted to bring serious attention to, I also think that he should be commended for his ideas and scolded for his little tricks. Many aspergers people stand out, both in bad and good ways. Honestly I think its a mental adaption and not a flaw.

  10. I, too, have aspergers and have always been able to influence people quite well. I’ve never used it for personal gain, though. I don’t think this teen was trying to scam people, I bet he legitimately thought he could try and start a business. All aspies aren’t the same, though. Instead of struggling with verbal communication and handling social situations (I actually do quite well with parties and I enjoy being out with friends, something I think being in band really helped me develop) I struggle with affection more than anything; Hugging/holding hands etc. is extremely uncomfortable/embarrassing and, in most cases, annoying to me, so it’s something I have to really work towards dealing with. Also, my highschool teachers had a running joke with me. They all loved holding debates and class conversations with me, but I barely kept a 2.3 GPA. They assumed I was just lazy. The more you know.

    By the way
    “Could someone with a good enough theory of mind to pull this hoax really be accurately described as having Asperger’s?”

    Who the fuck are you to decide this?

  11. Anonymous @19 & Daemon @16: I apologise if I caused offence. I am indeed ignorant of Asperger’s and do need to read up on it some. That’s why I was asking the question. It was just a question and not an attempt to decide or influence anything.

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