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Man Charged With Posing As Pilot

October 4, 1998

ROCKVILLE, Md. (AP) _ Daniel Shykind wore a United Airlines uniform, rode along in jet cockpits and bantered with pilots about company rules, the latest equipment and retirement investments.

But the man who claimed to be a major-airline pilot was really just a good actor who conned his way into cockpits and free flights while cheating others out of money, prosecutors contend.

Shykind, 31, of Bethesda, stands charged with theft and fraud for allegedly bilking 14 airline employees and friends of $30,700 over a three-year period that ended in May 1996.

He is scheduled for a mental competency exam on Oct. 26, and for trial next year.

His wife, Heidi Shykind, 33, a former flight attendant for American Airlines, also has been charged with theft.

Messages left at Shykind’s home were not returned Saturday. His lawyers and prosecutors would not comment on the case. United Airlines said it was unaware of any security breach.

Aviation experts say it would take a good actor to penetrate cockpit security.

After his arrest last year, police found a well-worn procedures manual for a Boeing 767 passenger jet in his apartment. Authorities say Shykind not only had the uniform but a fake company identification card that he would flash to get free flights, and that he often accompanied his wife on her flights.

Shykind was popular in the tightknit community of airline pilots. He played piano at parties and told tales about combat as an Air Force fighter pilot during the Persian Gulf war, The (Baltimore) Sun reported.

But Shykind was not an Air Force pilot and never advanced beyond classroom aviation lessons, authorities said.

Prosecutors say he bilked money from pilots by telling them that he and colleagues on the South American run were buying loose change from tourists returning to the United States for 40 percent of face value.

This ``cheap money″ would be deposited in South American banks and later withdrawn and exchanged for U.S. currency. Shykind told his victims that all he needed was seed money to open the bank accounts and perform the exchanges.

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