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Florida student pilot charged with attempting to steal aircraft

MELBOURNE, Florida. – A 22-year-old student pilot suspected of being on board an abandoned passenger plane at a central Florida airport early Thursday, is charged with criminal attempt to steal an aircraft, the officials said.

The Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating and trying to determine a motive in the case, according to Orlando-Melbourne International Airport spokeswoman Lori Booker. They told the news outlets the student pilot, whose name has not been released, is also faced with a visa violation and criminal trespassing charges.

Early Thursday, a man drove on the sidewalk outside the airport, left his car, jumped over a fence and boarded an Airbus 321, American Airlines plane to sit in a workshop, Booker said.

An avionics technician was in the aircraft galley when he saw a shadow, Booker said.

“He turned to me and said: ‘Who are you? Show me your badge,” Booker told the news outlets. They said that the mechanic was at the airport employees they are called heroes.

He grabbed the man and with the help of another technician, they took him off the plane. Booker said that while a technician held the man down, the other is called the Melbourne airport police. The man broke free and ran past the airport before the police took him into custody about two minutes later.

After the man was arrested, officers conducted a sweep of the airport for the re-opening of the airport. All the staff and passengers were removed from the terminal during the incident, which caused two delays and interrupted operation of the airport for about five hours.

The police searched the student pilot the car with a robotic arm that no explosives were inside, Booker said. The car was then towed from the airport.

The airport return to normal activities after five hours.

Booker said the student pilot of the Trinidad and entered the United States through Canada. The spokeswoman said that he has a Florida driver’s license, but did not know whether he was enrolled in a local school.

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

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This story has been corrected and the defendant’s age to 22 instead of 26.

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