Jetblue pi­lot held for eval­u­a­tion for midair melt­down

Cap­tain fac­ing charges in Texas

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY RUSS BYNUM AND DANNY ROB­BINS

RICH­MOND HILL, GA. | A Jetblue Air­ways cap­tain who sprinted through the cabin of a Las Ve­gas-bound flight scream­ing about ter­ror­ists, Je­sus and Sept. 11 was charged Wed­nes­day with in­ter­fer­ing with a flight crew, fed­eral au­thor­i­ties said.

Capt. Clay­ton Os­bon told his co-pi­lot that “things just don’t mat­ter” shortly af­ter Jetblue Flight 191 from New York de­parted Tues­day, ac­cord­ing to an af­fi­davit.

Mr. Os­bon, who was ul­ti­mately tack­led by pas­sen­gers while the plane made an emer­gency land­ing in Texas, told his co-pi­lot that “we’re not go­ing to Ve­gas” and be­gan what was de­scribed as a ser­mon, the court doc­u­ments said.

The first of­fi­cer “be­came re­ally wor­ried when Os­bon said, ‘We need to take a leap of faith,’ ” ac­cord­ing to the sworn af­fi­davit given by an FBI agent. “Os­bon started try­ing to cor­re­late com­pletely un­re­lated num­bers like dif­fer­ent ra­dio fre­quen­cies, and he talked about sins in Las Ve­gas.”

Mr. Os­bon left the cock­pit soon af­ter and ten­sions on the plane be­gan to es­ca­late, ac­cord­ing to wit­ness ac­counts com­piled by in­ves­ti­ga­tors. Mr. 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 Mr. Os­bon tried to re-en­ter by bang­ing on the door, the first of­fi­cer gave an or­der through the in­ter­com to re­strain Mr. Os­bon, ac­cord­ing to the af­fi­davit. Pas­sen­gers wres­tled Mr. Os­bon to the ground, and one fe­male flight at­ten­dant’s ribs were bruised dur­ing the strug­gle. No one on board was se­ri­ously hurt. The charges against Mr. Os­bon, 49, were filed in Texas. He was be­ing held Wed­nes­day at North­west Texas Health­care Sys­tem in Amar­illo and re­mains un­der a med­i­cal eval­u­a­tion.

Un­der fed­eral law, a con­vic­tion for in­ter­fer­ence with a flight crew or at­ten­dants can bring up to 20 years in prison. The of­fense is de­fined as as­sault­ing or in­tim­i­dat­ing the crew, in­ter­fer­ing with its du­ties or di­min­ish­ing its abil­ity to do op­er­ate the plane.

Jetblue spokes­woman Al­li­son Stein­berg said ear­lier Wed­nes­day that Mr. Os­bon had been sus­pended pend­ing a re­view of the flight.

Mr. Os­bon has been a pi­lot for Jetblue since 2000. The com­pany’s CEO and pres­i­dent, Dave Barger, told NBC’S “To­day” show that Mr. Os­bon is a “con­sum­mate pro­fes­sional” whom he has “per­son­ally known” for years.

Fel­low pi­lots and Mr. Os­bon’s neigh­bors in an af­flu­ent waterfront sub­di­vi­sion in Rich­mond Hill, Ga., said they were baf­fled by the mid­flight out­burst. None re­called any pre­vi­ous health or men­tal prob­lems.

Erich Thorp, a neigh­bor who re­cently helped Mr. Os­bon put a fence up in his yard, de­scribed Mr. Os­bon as af­fa­ble and out­go­ing, stand­ing about 6-foot-4 with a crew cut and a mus­cu­lar build.

Pas­sen­gers said they used seat-belt ex­ten­ders and zip­tie hand­cuffs to re­strain him for more than 20 min­utes un­til the plane landed.

“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 Las Ve­gas for a se­cu­rity in­dus­try con­fer­ence.

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

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