Student Pilot Arrested After Jumping Fence and Sneaking Onto American Airlines Plane

Orlando Melbourne International Airport shut down on Thursday morning after a 26-year-old student pilot hopped a fence and tried to board an American Airlines plane.

At around 2 a.m., the student drove to the hangar when the A321 aircraft was parked, left his car running, and boarded the plane. Two people — a maintenance worker and a supervisor — were on board the aircraft when one noticed something moving. When the student approached the cockpit, the two men grabbed him and took him off the aircraft. Police arrived within two minutes.

“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.

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

During the incident, the airport was on lockdown for about five hours. Only two flights were affected by the closure.

Booker said the man was born in Trinidad but had a Florida driver’s license. He was a student at the Florida Institute of Technology, studying aviation management. Local CBS affiliate WKMG Orlando identified him as Nishal Sankat and reported he was charged with criminal attempt to steal an airplane, criminal trespassing, and a visa violation.

A similar incident happened last month at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport when a grounds crew member stole a turboprop passenger plane. He flew for about an hour before crashing the plane on a nearby island.

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