Mechanic Saves the Day in Attempted A321 Theft at Melbourne, Florida Airport

Shane Graves, an A&P mechanic at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, was instrumental in preventing the theft of the American Airlines A321 last week.

A Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) student, Nishal Kiran Sankat, 22, left his car running at the curb of a road near maintenance facilities where aircraft were parked overnight for inspection and work. Sankat climbed the security fence topped with razor wire, ran across the ramp and climbed a stair to enter the aircraft.

Graves was working on the aircraft when Sankat came on board. “The only thing he said when he came on the plane was that he had his pilot license,” Graves said. After noticing he did not have the proper ID to be on the aircraft, Graves suspected that something was amiss. In an interview with Orlando ABC affiliate WFTV Graves added, “I knew right away — I mean we’re trained. No badge. Looked down, no shoe on that foot. This isn’t right. Nothing’s right about this kid,” Graves remembered thinking at the time. “He was looking around, and I said, ‘You’re coming with me. You’re coming off this airplane.’ I put him on the ground at the entrance door, got him on that golf cart, and we went into the hangar.”

Graves took Sankat to the closest hanger in the golf cart. Once the two arrived at the hanger with him, Sankat tried to run away. Graves tackled him.Graves works the night shift from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. He has only been working at the airport for five months, but has been a mechanic for 25 years.

Sankat was charged Friday, September 21, 2018 with three counts related to the alleged attempted theft of the plane; one count of unarmed burglary of an occupied conveyance, one count of trespassing in an occupied structure or conveyance, and one count of grand theft worth $100,000 or more.