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JetBlue Suspends Pilot Who Caused Disturbance Aboard Flight

LAS VEGAS (CBS Las Vegas/AP) — A JetBlue captain who had to be restrained aboard a flight has been suspended after Tuesday’s incident.

“(Clayton Osbon) has been suspended pending a further investigation,” JetBlue spokeswoman Tamara Young told CBS Las Vegas.

Passengers aboard an early morning flight from New York bound for Las Vegas first noticed something wrong when the plane’s top pilot, Clayton Osbon, came out of the cockpit, didn’t close the door and tried to force his way into an occupied bathroom.

The JetBlue captain’s co-workers tried to calm him as he became more jittery, coaxing him to the back of the plane while making sure — above all — that he didn’t get back near the plane’s controls.

Then, he sprinted up the cabin’s aisle — ranting about a bomb, screaming “They’re going to take us down!” and urging confused passengers to pray.

“Nobody knew what to do because he is the captain of the plane,” said Don Davis, the owner of a Ronkonkoma, N.Y.-based wireless broadband manufacturer who was traveling to Sin City for a security industry conference.

“You’re not just going to jump up and attack the captain,” Davis said.

But four men did tackle just that, using seat belt extenders and zip tie handcuffs to restrain and pin him to the floor for more than 20 minutes while the co-pilot and an off-duty pilot who was aboard landed the plane in Amarillo, Texas.

The company’s CEO and president Dave Barger told NBC’s “Today” show that Osbon is a “consummate professional” whom he has “personally known” for years.

There is nothing in Osbon’s record to indicate he would be a risk on a flight, Barger said Wednesday.

It was not clear if Osbon would face any criminal or civil charges for disrupting the flight.

“Clearly, he had an emotional or mental type of breakdown,” said Tony Antolino, a security executive who sat in the 10th row of the plane and tackled the pilot when he tried to re-enter the cockpit.

“He became almost delusional,” Antolino said after arriving in Las Vegas from Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport some six hours after schedule.

Josh Redick, who was sitting near the middle of the plane, said the captain seemed “irate” and was “spouting off about Afghanistan and souls and al-Qaida.”

Elton Stafford, who lives across the street from Osbon in Richmond Hill, Ga., said he was shocked at the captain’s outburst.

“Clayton’s a great guy. Loves to have a good time, loves the outdoors. He just loves people,” Stafford said late Tuesday. “They’re the kind of neighbors that everybody wants.”

The airline described the incident as a “medical situation” involving the captain of JetBlue Airways Flight 191 from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Airline officials said he was taken to a hospital.

The outburst came weeks after an American Airlines flight attendant was taken off a plane for rambling about 9/11 and her fears the plane would crash. John Cox, an aviation safety consultant and former airline pilot, said he could recall only two or three cases in 40 years where a commercial pilot had become mentally incapacitated during a flight.

Gabriel Schonzeit, who was sitting in the third row, said the captain said there could be a bomb onboard.

“He started screaming about al-Qaida and possibly a bomb on the plane and Iraq and Iran and about how we were all going down,” Schonzeit told the Amarillo Globe-News.

“A group of us just jumped up instinctually and grabbed him and put him to the ground,” Antolino said.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the co-pilot had locked the cockpit.

An off-duty JetBlue captain who was a passenger on the flight entered the flight deck and took over the duties of the ill captain before landing in Amarillo, the airline said in a statement.

The customers and crew “just did a great job,” JetBlue’s Barger said. “That was a true team effort at 35,000 feet.”

Authorities interviewed each passenger in Amarillo, according to 22-year-old passenger Grant Heppes, of New York City. A few hours later the passengers boarded another flight to Las Vegas.

Shane Helton, 39, of Quinlan, Okla., said he saw emergency personnel carry a man from the aircraft on a stretcher and put him into an ambulance on the tarmac in Amarillo. Helton said he was at the airport with his fiancée to see one of her sons off as he joined the Navy.

The FBI was coordinating an investigation with the airport police, Amarillo police, the FAA and the Transportation Safety Administration, said agency spokeswoman Lydia Maese in Dallas. She declined to comment on arrests.

Airlines and the FAA strongly encourage pilots to assert themselves if they think safety is being jeopardized, even if it means contradicting a captain’s orders, Cox said. Aviation safety experts have studied several cases where first officers deferred to more experienced captains with tragic results.

Unruly pilots, crew and passengers have disrupted flights in the past.

Just hours after Osbon’s breakdown, crew aboard a US Airways flight from Charlotte, N.C., to Fort Myers, Fla., had to restrain a disruptive female passenger. Lee County Port Authority police spokeswoman Victoria Moreland said a passenger from the flight was arrested Tuesday afternoon but declined to elaborate.

Earlier this month, an American Airlines flight attendant took over the public-address system on a flight bound for Chicago and spoke for 15 minutes about Sept. 11 and the safety of their plane, saying, “I’m not responsible for this plane crashing,” according to several passengers.

Passengers wrestled the flight attendant into a seat while the plane was grounded at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport; the flight attendant was hospitalized.

In 2008, an Air Canada co-pilot was forcibly removed from a Toronto-to-London flight, restrained and sedated after having a mental breakdown on a flight.

The FAA is likely to review Osbon’s medical certificate — essentially a seal of approval that the pilot is healthy. All pilots working for scheduled airlines must have a first-class medical certificate. The certificates must be renewed every six months to a year, depending on the pilot’s age. To receive the certificate, the pilot must receive a physical examination by an FAA-designated medical examiner that includes questions about pilot’s psychological condition. Pilots are required to disclose all physical and psychological conditions and medications.

Charlie Restivo, who was heading to the Las Vegas security conference and sat in the plane’s fourth row, said he thought it was clear that the pilot had suffered a medical episode.

“I don’t think when he got up this morning that that’s what he was intending to do,” he said. “Unfortunately, I just think it happened to him.”

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments

One Comment

  1. smokehouse56 says:

    Instead of sticking beside this very sick man, they opted to throw him under the bus. Some great airline.

    1. annabanna says:

      Were you in New York on 9/11? I was.
      Throw him under the bus? They were very kind to him.

      1. BigBrotherMedia says:

        Give me a break. Unelected officials took over Washington and the media after the coup and cover up. Even most of the comments online are financed with your tax dollars. Big brother is trying to create the perception of public opinion while burying the truth. They think you can’t handle the truth. Fact of the matter is we have no democracy, president, and freedom of press is an illusion.

        Our next election is shaping up to be as big of a sham as the last. Do you know why Sarah Palin’s bus tour was really canceled? Do you know why she stayed 30 miles away from the second debate and chose the death of Steve Jobs to announce that she’s not running? Know what leaked out? Sarah Palin and Cain aren’t in the race for the same reason, the truth leaked out.

        Search PalinsDirtyLittleSecret for the biggest cover up in world history before it disappears forever much like me.

      2. Jedediah says:

        So what does any of your rant have to do with this story?

      3. exweb says:

        You sound much like the pilot in this story. Back under your bed please – its too dangerous out here.

      4. Mike says:

        SO! Is that your badge of qualification?

      5. Humanist says:

        annabanna, what do you suggest Jet Blue should do with this pilot?

    2. AJ Bataiff says:

      Don’t you mean, throw him under the Airbus? Besides, at 30,000 feet, loyalty should not become a consideration.

  2. M. Waterman says:

    Is it just me, or does this sound strangely similar to the flight attendant who had a meltdown on a flight a few weeks ago?

    1. Martin says:

      So your point being??

      1. Disgusted Citizen says:

        Point being it was entirely orchestrated. Unelected officials took over Washington and the media after the coup and cover up. Even most of the comments online are financed with your tax dollars. Big brother is trying to create the perception of public opinion while burying the truth. They think you can’t handle the truth. Fact of the matter is we have no democracy, president, and freedom of press is an illusion.

        Our next election is shaping up to be as big of a sham as the last. Do you know why Sarah Palin’s bus tour was really canceled? Do you know why she stayed 30 miles away from the second debate and chose the death of Steve Jobs to announce that she’s not running? Know what leaked out? Sarah Palin and Cain aren’t in the race for the same reason, the truth leaked out.

        Search PalinsDirtyLittleSecret for the biggest cover up in world history.

      2. Martin says:

        Connect the dots…

    2. cRAIG says:

      It’s just you.

    3. squarebird says:

      Just you

  3. Zipperhead says:

    This is obviously something George Bush should be held accountable for.

  4. Disgusted Citizen says:

    Well it’s a good thing the very passengers the TSA take combs, toothpaste, mouthwash, and fingernail clippers away from were able to roll up a sky mall magazine and beat him like a 3 year old in Wal-Mart! That’s the problem Nobody is safe regardless if one goes through a naked body scanner or a so called trusted “consummate professional” through the back door! Geez… Let’s all wear hoodies now and cry for “Trayvon” and sing songs…..

    1. Noah Fing-Whey says:

      Lol

      1. Ron C Clair says:

        Apparently, pilots are not supposed to have ailments which are similar or identical to those which the public at large has…damn, did I end that sentence with a preposition?

      2. David says:

        “Has” That’s a verb.

      3. B Lewis says:

        Apparently, pilots are not supposed to have ailments which are similar or identical to those which the public at large has…damn, did I end that sentence with a preposition?>

        I rewrote it for you:

        “Pilots are no less susceptible to mental illness than anyone else..”

  5. Dave says:

    This makes no sense. I wouldn’t be surpised is someone slipped this guy a dose of LSD.

    1. Auzzievick says:

      As a retired nurse, this was my 1st. thought, too! I have family who are pilots & I KNOW what they go through even just to get an FAA private pilot’s license.

    2. Mary says:

      I thought the same thing…and the flight attendant ..a few weeks ago a plot by our enemys

    3. squarebird says:

      If so – I would suspect the TSA — trying to justify their jobs by keeping the public frightened .. like the ATF raid on Waco.

      1. squarebird says:

        (If Al Quaeda wanted to attack an airplane, they would simply put something in a bag at JFK – where TSA is assisting in the stealing of 200 bags a day right off the airplane luggage hold! (meaning Al Quaeda could just as easily ADD a bag as take one).

        http://gothamist.com/2012/03/27/over_200_bag_thefts_per_day_at_jfk.php

  6. Humanist says:

    Let’s just hope this is easily explained by a bad reaction to medication, so he can continue his hard earned career and support his family.

    1. Mike says:

      One time is too many. Regardless of recovery. He should be flying nothing but a desk from now on.. Too many lives at stake. Maybe Fed Ex will hire him?

      1. Humanist says:

        I’ll agree if it turns out he went to the dark side, but if there is a simple explanation and it can be prevented in the future then there is no reason to ruin a mans life over public opinion. Even FedEx (very good company by the way) planes fly over cities and use the same runways and taxiways as the passenger carriers.

      2. freecheese says:

        A bus driver or truck driver — also regulated by a federal agency, would be permanently “grouded” and would have to seek anothy job.

  7. Louis F. says:

    A ufo was being tracked along side the aircraft for five minutes during the flight.

  8. Ric says:

    Has anyone looked into the possibility that these folks had been drugged w/o their knowledge?

  9. bob says:

    Wow he is suspended!
    Isn’t that a bit extreme?
    What happened to the good old days when a pilot could freak out and report to work the next day. (kidding)
    Is JetFu the same company as Jetblue or did i misread the heading on drudge report?

  10. Noah Fing-Whey says:

    It’s the flu vaccine

  11. walter12 says:

    Boy, that is scary. Who do you trust anymore?

  12. Compass says:

    No Air Marshall?

    1. Auzzievick says:

      Good observation!

  13. Mary says:

    Wondering if someone is slipping a drug into their drinks……Al Queda plot……???

    1. Susan says:

      Nope, TSA plot

  14. reefer says:

    Why does the MSM completely IGNORE the real problem.
    The problem is this guy has a MENTAL HEALTH issue.
    What the F good does it do to CHARGE HIM WITH A CRIME?!?!?!?
    What if he just fainted and fell on a Stewardess..and hurt her…
    would he still be charged with a CRIME?!?!?
    This world is so GD “iggerant” when it comes to MENTAL HEALTH
    PROBLEMS. Where are the journalists who have one once of
    brain power? This entire situation absolutely disgusts me.
    No one will probably even read my post.
    I’m outta here.

  15. Martin says:

    INTERCEPTED EMAIL:!!!! NSA Psych-ops failure #4, once again the agent used too much of the s-43V compound, remember folks, Plausible deniability at all costs, so far so go, and please, please, stop using the TSA as couriers, they cant even seem to tie their own shoes. We will be trying the s-43V compound in micro-dot dosages until this thing get’s perfected, keep up the good work folks, we”re almost there! We have gone from airlines to cruise ships and back to airlines but we will stick with commercial air travel for the time being, HQ is considering a sports event, but we may stick with commuter air-routes as the airline scenario is our final goal anyway.

  16. Queeg says:

    Ever see The Caine Mutiny?

  17. Ken Puck says:

    This incident just doesn’t scan (you should pardon the metaphor). Why would a rational commercial pilot go berserk? Either 1.) he snapped out (for whatever reason…mental illness strikes in strange ways) or 2.) he was slipped a dose of something by somebody. The airline needs to tread gently here.

  18. Phyllis says:

    Will there be an interview with him and the flight attendant to answer public questions?

  19. john c says:

    Maybe someone slipped him something like LSD. Or maybe a reaction to an antidepressant drug.

  20. globeflyer says:

    I knew of a captain who had a somewhat similar episode a few years back. Totally out of character for the man, he was discovered to have had a grand mal seizure. When they tested him further, he had brain cancer and was dead within a year. Don’t jump on this bandwagon just yet, I’ve got a feeling there is more to the story. All his neighbors and friends say he was stable guy; Heck, he even knew the CEO of JetBlue personally. I am withholding judgement.

  21. iambicpentamaster says:

    20 years in prison?

    Give Blago my best…

  22. elaineanne says:

    We had the thought that somehow this poor pilot was given something or was having an reaction to a new medication. Have reached a point where we never trust what the media is spewing. Hey, is anyone getting sick and tired of the trolls going on and on wanting you to go read Palin’s dirty little secret, or something like that. What a bunch of nonsense. Could the trolls please join that group over in France climbing the sacred mountain that is going to save everyone who is there in December. Thankis.

  23. elaineanne says:

    annabanna, are you perchance a young one who hasn’t lived enough years to understand there are honest, decent people that bad things happen to. How can you judge without knowing any facts? Give the guy a break. Will you take back your rant if they find out he broke down and is truly suffering a mental illness? We’ve seen someone “snap” it is very scarry and he truly did not know a thing he was doing while going berserk. No drugs involved, just stressed beyond endurance.

  24. graced says:

    I’m in airine industry and have seen erractic behavior before .. perfectly wonderful people that change mentally. Alot due to their taking ambien in order to get good sleep … for air crew have erratic hours and unable to sleep. Thjis drug is the one of choice and is prescribed by their doctors. I wonder if this pilot too was taking anything for rest?

  25. Martha says:

    Oh my .. I could see a letter of reprimand, but suspension? Harsh! I hope he gets paid for however many days they keep him from work.

  26. youheardme says:

    We all know Obama wants to disarm airline pilots , I would do a tox screen of this capt , and find out what programs if any Obama has running to justify disarming pilots . this stinks to High heaven .

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