French man arrested for impersonating pilot in cockpit at Philadelphia airport, police say

Philippe Jernnard
AP Photo/Philadelphia Police Department

(CBS/AP) PHILADELPHIA - A French man was arrested Wednesday for impersonating a pilot at Philadelphia International Airport after airline officials found him in the cockpit of a plane scheduled for takeoff, police said.

Philippe Jernnard of La Rochelle, France, was on a US Airways plane bound for West Palm Beach, Fla., where the flight crew found him in the jump seat behind the pilot on Wednesday evening. Police said the crew removed him from the cockpit after he was unable to produce valid credentials and became argumentative.

Police said Jernnard was a ticketed passenger and wore a white shirt with an Air France logo and had a black jacket with epaulets on the shoulders. Officer Christine O'Brien said police also found him in possession of a counterfeit Air France crew member ID card.

Air France said Friday that Jernnard is not one of its employees and was not wearing the airline's uniform.

O'Brien said Jernnard initially became upset at the gate when he asked to be upgraded to business class.

"The (US Airways) employee gate agent told the male there was no space left in business class. He became irate," then boarded the plane, O'Brien said.

It's not clear how Jernnard got into the cockpit, but police said there's no indication Jernnard meant any harm. One security expert said he didn't view it as a breach. 

Pilots can typically ride for free in the jump seat of another airline, but they must make arrangements ahead of time and their presence would be noted on a passenger manifest. That manifest is reviewed by the pilot before takeoff -- meaning that Jernnard didn't have a chance of remaining in the jump seat, said Douglas Laird, former security director for Northwest Airlines.

"The guy can't do any harm sitting up there. He has no access to the controls sitting there. I think the system worked," said Laird, who now runs an airline security consultancy in Reno, Nev.

Jernnard was charged with criminal trespass, forgery, records tampering, false impersonation of a person privately employed, and providing false identification to law enforcement. He remained jailed pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for April 5. Federal charges are also expected.


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