JetBlue captain grew increasingly erratic on plane
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
RICHMOND HILL, Ga. (AP) — JetBlue Airways captain Clayton Osbon showed up unusually late to fly Flight 191 to Las Vegas. The plane was in midair when he eerily told his co-pilot they wouldn’t make it there.
Osbon started rambling about religion. He scolded air traffic controllers to quiet down, then turned off the radios altogether, and dimmed the monitors in the cockpit. He said aloud that “things just don’t matter” and encouraged his co-pilot that they take a leap of faith.
“We’re not going to Vegas,” Osbon said.
What unfolded next, according to court documents released Wednesday, was a dramatic chase and struggle in the cabin that ended with passengers tackling Osbon, 49, and holding him down until the co-pilot could make an emergency landing in Amarillo, Texas. He was charged Wednesday with interfering with a flight crew.
A pilot with JetBlue since 2000, Osbon’s odd behavior on Tuesday became increasingly erratic after the flight departed New York, worrying his fellow crew members so much that they locked him out after he abruptly left the cockpit, according to an affidavit. Osbon then started yelling about Jesus, al-Qaida and a possible bomb on board, forcing passengers to tie him up with seat belt extenders and zip tie handcuffs for about 20 minutes until the plane landed.
“The (first officer) became really worried when Osbon said ‘we need to take a leap of faith,’” according to the sworn affidavit given by FBI agent John Whitworth. “Osbon started trying to correlate completely unrelated numbers like different radio frequencies, and he talked about sins in Las Vegas.”
Osbon left the cockpit soon after and tensions on the plane began to escalate, according to witness accounts compiled by investigators. Osbon, described by neighbors in Georgia as tall and muscular, “aggressively” grabbed the hands of a flight attendant who confronted him and later sprinted down the cabin while being chased.
From inside the locked cockpit, which Osbon tried to re-enter by banging on the door, the co-pilot gave an order through the intercom to restrain Osbon, the affidavit said. Passengers wrestled Osbon to the ground, and one female flight attendant’s ribs were bruised during the struggle. No one on board was seriously hurt.
The federal charges against Osbon were filed in Texas. He was being held Wednesday at Northwest Texas Healthcare System in Amarillo and remains under a medical evaluation.
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