A student pilot at the Florida Institute of Technology is in custody after he allegedly hopped a fence at Orlando Melbourne International Airport and boarded an American Airlines jet that was parked in a maintenance area.
The Nishal Sankat, a 22-year-old student, has been charged with criminal attempt to steal an airplane, a visa violation and criminal trespassing.
Sankat drove to the curb outside the airport around 2 a.m. Thursday, left his car running, hopped a fence and boarded the plane, airport spokeswoman Lori Booker said. A maintenance worker spotted him and police took him into custody a couple of minutes later.
“(The maintenance worker) saw a shadow behind him, turned, and challenged the badge, as we discussed earlier, and was not satisfied with the response,” Booker said. A badge, Booker said, allowed those with access into the secured area. Sankat did not have one.
Police conducted a search of Sankat’s car with a robotic arm to make sure there were no explosives, Booker said. The car was then towed from the airport.
Police, the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force are involved in the investigation, according to Booker.
“At this time there is no evidence to indicate a connection to terrorism,” Chief David Gillespie, Chief of Police Melbourne Police Department, said.