A student pilot who broke into a Florida airport and got into the cockpit of a vacant passenger plane will be deported after pleading guilty.
Nishal Sankat, 22, who was studying in Florida on a visa but has joint Trinidadian-Canadian citizenship, will be deported to Trinidad as part of his plea deal.
It comes after FBI invetigators who spoke with Sankat said he intended to ‘harm himself’ using the jet with ‘no regard’ for the safety of others, but did not link the plot to terrorism.
Nishal Sankat, 22, will be deported to his native country of Trinidad after he admitted breaking into a Florida airport and boarding an empty passenger jet
Sankat admitted he intended to harm himself when he tried to steal a plane on September 20
FBI agent David Hacker (second left) told the judge via video that Sankat was a risk to the public and that he ‘had no regard’ for others
Sankat was denied a public defender because he receives a stipend of $5,000 per month
Sankat will be put on Trinidad’s no-fly list and pay the Melbourne Airport Police Department $909.45 to cover investigation costs, ABC reported.
He was arrested on September 20 after a brief chase with airport authorities, and appeared in court for the first time the following day.
During that appearance, FBI agent David Hacker agent told the judge: ‘He advised us that he intended to harm himself and in that process had no regard for the eventuality of harming others.’
Hacker also confirmed during the hearing that Sankat was a risk to the public.
The Joint Terrorism Task Force said stealing the plane was a part of that plan, according to a News 6 video.
Before being called to speak, Sankat appeared to be falling asleep.
When he stood to answer questions a judge told the defendant he was not allowed to go back to the airport.
During the appearance Friday he took 30 minutes to complete paperwork to represented by a public defender but was told he would not qualify due to the fact he gets a stipend of $5,000 per month.
Sankat – next due in court October 18 – said he was not able to contact his family to let them know he was being held in custody.
‘I tried calling and they’re not there,’ he told the judge.
However his father Professor Clement Sankat, who used to be a University of the West Indies principal, issued a statement on Thursday saying that the family was providing support to his son.
Sankat told the judge on Friday that he was unable to contact his parents to let them know he was being held in custody
Sankat faces charges of criminal attempt to steal an aircraft, as well as a visa violation and trespassing. He is being held at the Brevard County Jail
The student pilot is originally from Trinidad but is believed to have been living in Florida
Sankat’s shocked school friends think the story is out of character for him
Technology student Sankat, was unarmed when he was tackled by airport staff at 1.25am on Thursday.
Melbourne Police Chief David Gillespie said Thursday he has no criminal record and no links to terrorist networks.
Airport spokesperson Lori Booker previously said the Joint Terrorism Task Force was investigating and trying to determine a motive in the case.
‘We’re all pretty puzzled by the motivation,’ Booker said Thursday. ‘We don’t have those answers right now.’
Gillespie previously said, reports Florida Today: ‘There were no explosive devices and no weapons that were confiscated from his residence.’
Booker said Sankat entered the US from Canada, where he holds dual citizenship with Trinidad, and has a Florida driving license.
Nishal Sankat’s Facebook pictures and posts show he had a keen interest in aviation and weaponry
Sankat’s Facebook page is heavily aircraft-themed and he had posted about the 2014 disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
Early Thursday morning he parked his car curbside, jumped a fence and boarded the vacant passenger plane.
The Airbus 321 aircraft was based at maintenance facility and wasn’t scheduled to fly when the incident happened.
An avionics technician was in the plane’s galley when he saw a shadow, Booker said.
‘He turned around and said, ‘Who are you? Show me your badge,’ she told news outlets.
The employee grabbed Sankat and with help from another technician, got him off the plane.
The student boarded the Airlines Airbus A321 plane (pictured) and caused an airport lockdown
Booker said that while one technician held the man down, the other called Orlando Melbourne airport police.
Sankat broke free and ran along the airfield before police took him into custody about two minutes later.
The student pilot now also faces a visa violation and criminal trespassing charges.
Booker described as ‘heroic’ the four staff who had seen the student board the plane and those who approached him on-board.
The car left abandoned by the man was searched by robots before being towed away.
Sankat was a part-time student at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, where he studied aviation management and had completed some flight training, school spokesman Adam Lowenstein said.
‘The university is cooperating with authorities, he said.
Sankat’s Facebook shows he was fascinated by aviation and weaponry and was an avid video gamer with a particular interest in war games.
He had posted updates online pondering the 2014 disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 and voiced concerns about Russia’s invasion of Crimea.
Airport spokesman Lori Booker (pictured) told news outlets the student pilot also faces a visa violation and criminal trespassing charges
Sankat also penned a tribute to Mikhail Kalashnikov, who created the AK47, upon his death in 2013.
He wrote: ‘I am deeply saddened by this event, R.I.P Mikhail Kalashnikov, A great leader and innovator, if it wasn’t for you we wouldn’t have these modern, yet efficient assault rifles that are available to both civilian and military use.
‘One of my lifelong heroes is no longer with us. I will remember you! R.I.P’
However friends said the incident was out of character for Sankat.
‘Nishal is not that type of person,’ Trinidad and Tobago classmate Aaron Ambrose told News 6. ‘He’s like a comical kid, but he was always really smart because he was, like, obsessed with planes.’
A sticker on the student’s car, and a number of social media posts, indicated he lived in the area at least recently.
The airport, which handles about 500,000 passengers a year, was evacuated and authorities conducted a security sweep of the entire airport, which reopened about five hours later, according to Booker.
Police quickly arrived at the scene and took the man to Brevard County Jail
Two flights were delayed and the airport was closed for five hours because of the incident.
Melbourne resident Manan Karia told Florida Today that he approached the airport about 5am on NASA Boulevard to try to catch a 6am Delta flight to Austin, Texas.
‘I drove by Keiser and Sears and saw a bunch of cars in both parking lots, which I thought was weird,’ Karia said.
‘I get to the airport and there is a line about five cars deep, and a police officer has the entrance blocked with his car and lights are flashing. You can see more police cars with lights flashing around the airport.’
Melbourne is 70 miles (112 kilometers) southeast of Orlando. Orlando-Melbourne is a popular airport for overhaul and maintenance, Booker said, and it’s not unusual to have as many as eight jets parked on the tarmac outside the repair center.
Sankat is being held at the Brevard County Jail.