Around the Nation
Wed March 28, 2012
JetBlue Pilot Charged For Disruption Mid-Flight
Originally published on Fri March 30, 2012 2:14 pm
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
We're learning more about yesterday's bizarre incident on-board JetBlue Flight 191 from New York to Las Vegas. That's the plane that diverted to Amarillo, Texas after the pilot left the cockpit mid-flight and went on a rant, screaming about Iraq and Israel.
Federal prosecutors today charged the pilot, Clayton Osbon, with interfering with a flight crew. And the court filing contains new details about what apparently went on during that flight.
NPR's John Burnett is following the story for us. And, John, this new information comes from an affidavit find by an FBI agent. It's based on his interviews with the co-pilot, also two flight attendants and another JetBlue pilot who just happened to be on that flight. What does it say?
JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: Well, the affidavit is really quite a read. It talks about the pilot who arrived for the flight late, and then his behavior got increasingly erratic as the five-hour flight progressed. He started talking about religion. He started delivering what the co-pilot said was a sermon inside the flight deck.
He turned off the radios in the aircraft and started dimming his monitor. He instructed the first officer, the co-pilot, to not talk to air traffic control. And then he started talking about the sins in Las Vegas and it just kind of grew more and more bizarre. And then the first officer realized that there was an off-duty pilot who was flying as a passenger on the plane and he knew that he wanted to get the off-duty pilot into the cockpit to replace the pilot.
BLOCK: And at that point the captain of this flight, the pilot, leaves the cockpit. What happens next, according to the affidavit from the FBI?
BURNETT: So then it gets even more bizarre. So the captain needs to go to the bathroom. And so he starts banging on the door. And then once he leaves the cockpit, the co-pilot locks the door and changes the code so that he can't get back in, then he calls the off-duty pilot to come in. And then Osbon starts running down the aisle and yelling and ranting about September 11th, about Iraq, Iran, terrorists and Jesus.
And then the first officer takes the extraordinary measure of going on the P.A. system and asking the passengers to physically subdue the pilot. And there are some beefy men who tackle him and then hold him down and tie him with their belts. And they're actually sitting on him while the plane makes the emergency landing in Amarillo.
BLOCK: OK. Well, where is the pilot, Clayton Osbon, now? What's next for him, John?
BURNETT: He's being held at the Northwest Texas Healthcare System in Amarillo for medical evaluation. He's under a very serious charge for interfering with a flight crew. The maximum penalty is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
BLOCK: OK. NPR's John Burnett. John, thank you.
BURNETT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.