Student Pilot Arrested After Hopping Florida Airport Fence and Boarding Plane

CHARGED Trini-born aviation student Nishal Sankat is seen at left in this

CHARGED Trini-born aviation student Nishal Sankat is seen at left in this

According to law enforcement authorities, Sankat, the son of Professor Clement Sankat, jumped the fence at the Melbourne International Airport in Orlando and attempted to steal the commercial airliner, before being wrestled to the ground by a maintenance supervisor and a technician aboard the aircraft and subsequently being arrested.

The incident started with the man driving to a curb outside the airport, leaving his vehicle running, and then hopping a fence and boarding an Airbus 321 American Airlines aircraft sitting in a maintenance facility, Booker said.

When he discovered the doors were locked, he allegedly walked the perimeter before jumping a fence and running to an American Airlines Airbus A321, according to authorities.

Airport spokesperson Lori Booker told the media that an avionics technician was in the plane's galley at the time, and saw Sankat's shadow when the suspect boarded the plane.

The workers grabbed Sankat and took him off the aircraft before police arrived. The employees asked for the student's identity and badge.

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The student pilot broke free and ran along the airfield before being taken into custody by two police officers. It also quickly made global headlines as media houses initially felt it may have been a possible terrorist threat, as he was only identified as a Trinidadian student who had had flight training and had entered into the U.S. from Canada. Sankat, a student at the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) where he is studying aviation management, is charged with unarmed burglary of an occupied conveyance, trespassing and grand theft of the aircraft.

The FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force are also involved in the investigation. "All of us have a part to play in breaking the stigma of mental health and wellness and making it comfortable for persons who need help, to seek it", Garcia said.

Booker said the man was born in Trinidad but had a Florida driver's license.

The 26-year-old's daring dash interrupted airport operations for around five hours. Only two flights were affected by the closure.

The American Airlines plane was at a maintenance facility for the installation of broadband WiFi, a spokeswoman for the airline said in an email. She did not know whether he was enrolled in a local school. "We believe in this instance our security worked just fine".

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