The FBI is investigating a French man who posed as a pilot and took a seat in the cockpit Wednesday on a US Airways flight preparing to take off from Philadelphia International Airport.
Philippe Jernnard, 61, was reportedly denied a seat in business class at the gate, but boarded the Florida-bound flight anyway and settled into the cockpit jump seat behind the captain, telling the crew he was an Air France 747 pilot.
"He had an Air France shirt. He had an Air France bag. He had some identification that looked like he was a crew member from Air France," Capt. Michael Murphy of the Philadelphia Police Department told MyFoxPhilly.com
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The flight crew called police when Jernnard couldn’t produce the proper credentials and he was arrested before the flight took off.
"He portrayed himself as a pilot. He gained access to the cockpit. A few minutes after that they learned he was not a pilot and police were called," Murphy said.
Jernnard is being held on $1 million bail on charges of criminal trespass, forgery-alter writing, tampering with records, false impression, and providing false information to law enforcement.
Police say no passengers were ever in danger and the flight took off on time. Jernnard's motives, however, are still unclear.
"It's concerning because we don't know what his designs were," Murphy said. "He could be anything from just wanting to look at the cockpit to some other criminal designs."
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The phony pilot's effort is reminiscent of the film "Catch Me If You Can," based on the life of Frank Abagnale, a teenage conman who impersonated a physician, lawyer, and airline pilot before getting caught in 1969 when he was just 21.
Jernnard will have to surrender his passport pending an April 5 hearing, MyFoxPhilly.com reported.
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