Man arrested after jumping fence, boarding empty plane at Florida airport

Nishal Sankat

Nishal Sankat was charged with criminal theft of an aircraft, criminal trespassing and visa violation hours after USA authorities claimed he allegedly hopped a fence at the Melbourne International Airport in Florida and boarded a commercial airplane in a maintenance hangar.

According to reports from U.S. news outlets, the man drove to the airport, parked at the curb, left his vehicle running, scaled a barbed-wire fence and boarded an Airbus 321 American Airlines aircraft at a maintenance facility, disrupting travel at the facility.

Police say Sankat, who carries a Florida driver's license, has dual citizenship with Canada and Trinidad and Tobago.

That question is the first step in security protocol, according to Major League Baseball spokeswoman Lori Booker, if someone sees a person who appears out of place in any airport. "Show me your badge", Booker reported. When the student approached the cockpit, the maintenance workers grabbed him, held him down and took him off the aircraft, she said. His motive is not immediately known.

The Federal Aviation Association told reporters Sankat received his commercial pilot's certification in January to fly multi-engine aircraft and was instrument rated but was not qualified to fly the kind of jet he boarded Thursday.

Police, the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force are involved in the investigation.

Sankat did have a visa to be in the United States, which expired.

The aviation workers who helped capture Sankat work the overnight shift and were unavailable for interviews, officials said, because the heroes were sleeping after a long night.

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He was taken into custody by police a few minutes later.

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.

The airport was on lockdown for about five hours, returning to business as usual by 7 a.m., Booker said.

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

"We are now a fully functioning airport", she told reporters.

The specific plane, the American Airlines Airbus A321, last flew out of Miami on Sunday and was scheduled to fly back at noon on Thursday, according to CNN. "You're coming off this airplane.' I put him on the ground at the entrance door, got him on that golf cart, and we went into the hangar".

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