Student pilot boards plane, causes Florida airport lockdown

Update: Authorities say a 22-year-old student pilot has been charged with criminal attempt to steal an airplane at a central Florida airport.

Orlando-Melbourne International Airport spokeswoman Lori Booker tells news outlets that the man also has been charged with a visa violation and criminal trespassing. His name hasn’t been released.


MELBOURNE, Fla. (AP) — A 26-year-old student pilot boarded a vacant Airbus 321 American Airlines aircraft in a maintenance facility early Thursday disrupting travel at Orlando-Melbourne International Airport, police and airport officials said.

The student drove to the curb outside the airport early Thursday, left his car running, hopped a fence and boarded the plane, airport spokeswoman Lori Booker told news outlets. A maintenance worker spotted him and police took him into custody a couple of minutes later.

Booker said officials conducted a sweep of the airfield before re-opening the airport. In addition, all employees and passengers were removed from the terminal during the incident. It caused two flight delays and interrupted airport operations for about five hours.

Police conducted a search of the man’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.

The man, who was born in Trinidad and entered the United States through Canada, was taken to the Brevard County Jail. His name hasn’t been released but Booker said he has a Florida driver’s license. She did not know whether he was enrolled in a local school.

The airport has returned to normal operations.

Melbourne is 70 miles (112 kilometers) southeast of Orlando.

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