A North Country man put himself in rarefied air when he exposed himself aboard an airliner en route to Syracuse three weeks ago, according to a federal prosecutor.

Phillip P. Gibeau, 40, of Carthage, was accused Monday of exposing himself to a flight attendant aboard a US Airways flight from Washington, D.C., to Syracuse on July 4.

The flight attendant was taking drink orders when she came to Gibeau and found him with his leg draped across two vacant seats beside him and his penis exposed from the side of his shorts, according to an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Frederick Bragg.

Gibeau "smirked and replied, 'What do you have?' " when the flight attendant asked him for his drink order, Bragg wrote. The Boeing 737 had 63 passengers and a flight crew of five.

Because the incident happened on an aircraft, it would have been difficult to determine which state or county had jurisdiction, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Broton. Instead of being charged under state law,

Gibeau was charged under a rarely used federal law that makes certain crimes applicable to any aircraft in U.S. airspace, Broton said.

The federal law was used only 12 times last year across the country, according to Susan Long, co-director of Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which compiles data on federal crimes. Broton said he knew of no other instance when the law was used in the 32-county Northern District of New York, which includes Syracuse.

The law makes any of the following crimes illegal when they're committed in an aircraft: murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, attempted manslaughter, assault, maiming, theft, receiving stolen property, sexual abuse and indecent exposure. Those crimes are separate from acts related to the aircraft, such as air piracy.

Gibeau denied exposing himself. He said in an interview Monday that the flight attendant was making it up.

"I do believe that is a bad call on her part," Gibeau said.

"If she thinks I did something like that, I'm very sorry," said Gibeau, who's a pipe liner at LaBarge Cos. in Syracuse. "It's nothing I did intentionally to her. As far as I know, I was not exposed."

When he got off the plane in Syracuse, police took him into custody and checked to see if he was wearing underpants, which he was, Gibeau said.