Bizarre Incident on US Airways Ends in Arrest of Fake Pilot

UPDATE May 9, 2013: The fake pilot has pleaded guilty to one count of fraud. Sentencing date has not yet been set.

Remember the movie “Catch Me if You Can” in which Leonardo DiCaprio starred as a con-man pilot? Something similar played out at Philadelphia International this week which raised some troubling questions – and reminded FareCompare about a far more spectacular pilot scam.

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Fake Air France Pilot in Philly

Sixty-one-year-old Frenchman Philippe Jernnard was wearing a pilot-type shirt featuring the insignia of Air France when he reportedly got into a verbal altercation with a US Airways gate agent.

The man was not happy when the agent told him his coach ticket did not entitle him to a first class seat, but he found a way to improve his position anyway. After boarding the plane, he allegedly entered the cockpit but apparently wasn’t noticed until the same gate agent – who came aboard to report the final passenger count – recognized him.

10 things you never want to hear a pilot say

Cockpit Entry Raises Questions

At this point the real captain says something to the effect of, go back and sit down where you’re supposed to, but Jernnard began arguing again. This time, he claimed to be an Air France pilot and said knew how to fly 747s, but nobody was buying it. The argument makes even less sense when you consider that the two airlines have no connection that FareCompare knows of – US Airways is a member of the Star Alliance while Air France belongs to SkyTeam.

Why those American pilots were so very unhappy

In any event, the cops were called and Jernnard was arrested. No link to terrorism or anything like that is suspected, but the FBI is reportedly on the case. How the man was allowed to get into a supposedly secure cockpit in the first place is the million dollar question, but – was this the worst con-man airline stunt ever? Not by a long shot.

The Fake Pilot Who Conned Airlines for Years

Three years ago, a 41-year-old Swede was also arrested for being a fake pilot – but he actually flew commercial airliners – and had been flying them for 13 years! He was taken into custody in Amsterdam while awaiting take-off aboard his Corendon Airlines plane heading to Ankara with 100 passengers. It was never clear why he did this, but the phony pilot was said to be “relieved” that his deception had finally been discovered. Bet his future passengers were relieved, too.

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Published: March 22, 2013