The angry Frenchman came upon an audacious solution when he couldn't fly business class, a plan worthy of "Catch Me If You Can."
Told the section was
full, Philippe Jernnard just went into the cockpit and pretended to be
crew, even dressing the part, police allege.
Unlike Leonardo DiCaprio
in the film based on the true story of a successful con artist posing as
a pilot, Jernnard was caught right away at Philadelphia International
Airport and is now being held on $1 million bail, Philadelphia police
The 61-year-old later remarked that he "hated Americans," said police, who are still ascertaining his exact motive.
Jernnard, who is from La
Rochelle, on the west coast of France, is a retired winemaker who was on
a layover from France and was changing planes to his final destination
in West Palm Beach, Florida, said Philadelphia Inspector Joseph
There's no indication that Jernnard was drunk, but he appeared to have had some drinks, Sullivan said.
Police arrested the man
on charges of trespassing, impersonating a public servant and lying to
police, Inspector Joseph Sullivan said.
The FBI is also investigating, a spokesman said Friday.
The incident occurred on a US Airways flight, Philadelphia police say.
US Airways declined to comment, citing the FBI investigation, spokesman Andrew Christie said.
Jernnard boarded the
plane Wednesday evening wearing a white button-down shirt with an Air
France logo over the pocket and a black jacket with four gold stripes on
the epaulets, akin to one worn by pilots, police said.
He also was carrying a
bad fake of an Air France crew badge and a fake crew identification
card, according to police and Air France spokesman Cedric Leurquin.
Before he boarded the US
Airways flight, Jernnard had a disagreement with airline personnel who
could not accommodate his request to be upgraded to business class,
Police believe he
sauntered into the cockpit while passengers were boarding the plane. The
pilot's door is usually open at that time, police said.
A flight attendant
conducting a routine head count entered the cockpit and saw the man
sitting in the jump seat behind the captain's seat. He identified
himself as an Air France pilot.
At least two pilots were doing pre-flight checks on the Airbus when the man entered the cockpit, Sullivan said.
"He identified himself
as a pilot and started to sit in the jump seat. But he immediately had a
problem getting strapped in and it was obvious to the real pilots that
he couldn't be a pilot," Sullivan told CNN. "He didn't know what he was
The flight crew told him
he would have to fill out paperwork, but the man didn't have
credentials, police said. The captain then told him to leave the area,
and the man became irate, police said.
Unable to calm him down, the flight crew escorted him off the plane, police said.
An airline agent tried to re-book him on another flight while U.S. Airways corporate security was notified, police said.
When corporate security
realized they had a possible crime on their hands, the man had left the
terminal for his re-booked flight, police said.
Corporate security contacted Philadelphia police, who found and arrested the man at his new terminal, Sullivan said.
The original U.S. Airways flight departed.
Was the act a fit of pique or a prank?
Police say they don't
know whether the suspect was simply a prankster trying to mimic Frank W.
Abagnale Jr. or he had other motives. (Abagnale -- who infamously
eluded authorities for years in the 1960s while posing as, among other
things, an airline pilot, a doctor and an attorney -- was the
inspiration for the 2002 film "Catch Me If You Can," starring DiCaprio
and Tom Hanks).
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