A man who disguised himself as an airline pilot and tried to enter a restricted area of Auckland Airport may have been part of a television prank that went awry.

The New Zealand Police force is not amused.

“Attempted breaches of airport security are taken very seriously,” said police superintendent Andy Lovelock in a statement.

Police say that on Saturday, a man entered the airport dressed in what appeared to be a pilot's uniform, complete with epaulets on his shirt shoulders and a silver winged badge on his cap. He was also carrying a large briefcase. Police say the man tried to enter an “airside” area of the airport before being challenged by ground staff and escaping from the airport in a black Toyota van.

Rachel Lorimer, a spokeswoman with local station TV3, which is run by the company MediaWorks, said police have been speaking to members of an independently produced show called Wanna-Ben.

“What I can tell you is that the police have been talking to a couple of members of the Wanna-Ben production team. One of them is about to appear in court,” Lorimer said. “From a MediaWorks perspective, we cannot comment further until the police go through their process.”

The premise of the show, according to the station's website, is that an unemployed man named Ben looks for an exciting job - such as rock star or fashion icon - and meets famous people along the way.

The police have yet to comment on the possible connection with the television show. However, Lovelock said in his statement that “the effort to which this individual has gone to access the restricted airside area of the Auckland Airport is of significant concern.”

The incident is reminiscent of the 2002 movie Catch Me If You Can, which recounts the true story of a young con artist who successfully poses as an airline pilot before being caught by the FBI. - Sapa-AP