By Joe Sterling, (CNN) — A Frenchman was arrested after he impersonated a pilot and sat in the cockpit of a US Airways plane before a scheduled flight from Philadelphia International Airport, police say.
Philippe Jernnard boarded the plane Wednesday evening wearing a shirt with an Air France logo and a jacket that resembled one worn by pilots, Philadelphia police Inspector Joseph Sullivan said.
Police arrested the man on charges of trespassing, impersonating a public servant and lying to police, Sullivan said. He was being held Friday with bail set at $1 million, he said.
Before he got on board, the 61-year-old Jernnard had a disagreement because airline personnel could not accommodate his request to be upgraded to business class, police said.
After that, police think, the man probably sauntered into the cockpit while passengers were boarding the plane.
A flight attendant conducting a routine head count entered the cockpit and saw the man, who identified himself as an Air France pilot.
Suspicious airline employees, sniffing out a fake, questioned the man.
They quickly realized he was not a pilot based on his answers, did not have the proper credentials and ordered him off the plane before it left the gate, police said. At that point, the man became irate and the crew called police.
Was the act a fit of pique, or a prank?
Police are searching for a motive.
They don’t know if the suspect was simply a prankster, trying to channel Leonardo DiCaprio’s film performance as a con man posing as a pilot in “Catch Me If You Can,” or if he had other motives.
A police report says the man asserted that he “hated Americans.” But so far, a federal law enforcement official said, investigators have not found any link to terrorism but are still trying to determine what Jernnard was doing. The FBI is looking into the matter.
Air France denied that one of its employees tried to board the Charlotte-bound flight. He wasn’t wearing the airline’s official uniform and badge or carrying the company baggage.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration wouldn’t discuss the case and referred calls to the FBI.
CNN’s Susan Candiotti, Carol Cratty and Kristen Kiraly contributed to this report.