Pilot arrested after sneaking onto jet

Cornelia Mascio
Settembre 24, 2018

The former principal of the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor Clement Sankat says the focus of his family now is to provide "all the legal, mental, emotional and parental support possible" to his 22-year-old son who was arrested in the United States on Thursday and charged for trying to steal a passenger jet at an Orlando airport.

A man identified as Florida Institute of Technology student Nishal Sankat drove to the curb outside Orlando-Melbourne International Airport, left his vehicle running, hopped a fence and boarded an Airbus 321 American Airlines aircraft sitting in a maintenance facility, airport spokeswoman Lori Booker said.

"There obviously seemed to be planning involved", Lori Booker, a spokesperson for the airport, said at a press conference on Thursday morning, according to CNN. Two people - a maintenance worker and a supervisor - were on board the aircraft when one noticed something moving.

The employees asked the student to identify himself and show his badge. The man broke free and ran along the airfield before police took him into custody about two minutes later.

Nishal Sankat, 22, is said to have approached the airport by auto and leapt over a security fence around 2am on Thursday morning.

The authorities said they did not know what Sankat's motive was. He tried to break away while being walked out by police but was quickly taken under control, Purden said. He later returned legally with his Canadian passport, Gillespie said.

Sankat, who was born in Trinidad, is a part time student at the Florida Institute of Technology and studying aviation management, according to WESH.

In addition to airport police, the Melbourne Police Department, FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force responded to the scene.

Orlando-Melbourne is a popular airport for overhaul and maintenance, Booker said, and it's not unusual to have as many as eight jets parked on the tarmac outside the fix center.

A robotic arm was used to search the man's auto to make sure there were no explosives.

The airport was closed for five hours following the incident.

The American Airlines plane was in the maintenance center undergoing work on the Wi-Fi system.

When the employee first detained Sankat, he was on the flight deck of the aircraft, attempting to get into the pilot's seat, Booker said.

"The only thing he said when he came on the plane was that he had his pilot license", Graves said.

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