A French man accused of impersonating a pilot appeared in federal court for the first time on Monday. Philippe Jeannard, 61, of La Rochelle, waived his right to a probable cause hearing during his arraignment today.
Jeannard is charged with using a fraudulent identity, trespass, forgery and false impersonation.
On March 20, Jeannard, who was wearing a shirt with an Air France logo and captain's epaulets on his shoulder, had a ticket for a Florida-bound US Airways flight and asked at the check-in counter for an upgrade, authorities said. He allegedly became upset when he was told there were no available seats. Police say a supervisor asked if he was an airline employee, and "the defendant responded that he was."
A flight attendant noticed that he had an Air France ID card and asked "as a matter of courtesy'' if he wanted to speak to the pilots, authorities said. The pilot and co-pilot told authorities that he entered the cockpit while they were performing their preflight duties and checks and said he was a Boeing 747 pilot, according to officials.
Prosecutors said the gate agent saw the defendant sitting in the jump seat behind the pilot and told him that if he was going to sit there he would have to go back to the check-in gate to complete paperwork and verifications. He left the cockpit but became verbally abusive and was told he could not continue on the flight, according to authorities. He later acknowledged to a manager that he was not a pilot, prosecutors said.
In an interview with police officers, Jeannard allegedly said his mother had been an Air France employee and he had falsified her ID card by adding his name, photo and status as a crew member.
During his court appearance today, Jeannard did not dispute any of the accusations against him. Yet even though he waived his right to a probable cause hearing, his attorney, Elizabeth Toplin, claimed that doesn't mean he'll plead guilty to any of the charges.
"He agreed that there was probable cause," she said. "That's as far as it goes here."
Toplin did not speak on what her client's motive was when he allegedly tried to pass as a pilot.
"I don't have any more information for you at this point," she said.
Jeannard is currently locked up on $1 million bail and declined to fight for a lower amount during today's court appearance.