A JetBlue flight headed to Las Vegas was forced to make an emergency landing in Texas on Tuesday (Mar 27) after the pilot went completely nuts and started displaying “erratic” behavior, forcing the plane’s co-pilot to lock him out of the cockpit so that he could safely land the plane.
According to multiple confirmed reports, with 131 passengers and six crew members aboard JetBlue fight 191, pilot Clayton Osbon started displaying potentially dangerous behavior shortly after the flight left from Kennedy Airport in New York.
At the time, Osbon wasn’t at the controls, but he “began acting erratically, flipping switches in the cockpit and appearing confused.”
When Captian Osbon left the cockpit during the flight, the plane’s co-pilot, concerned by Osbon’s strange behavior, ran and locked the door behind him.
Passengers on the flight explained what they witnessed next during the traumatic incident.
“The pilot ran to the cockpit door, began banging on it and said something to the effect of, ‘We’ve gotta pull the throttle back. We’ve gotta get this plane down,'” said Laurie Dhue.
She continued, “At that point, the two flight attendants tried to subdue him, and then seemingly out of nowhere, about six or seven large guys stormed to the front of the plane and wrestled the captain of the plane down to the ground and had him subdued in a matter of moments. It was really like something out of a movie.”
“The captain of the plane just went berserk,” passenger Wayne Honlnes said. “He came out of the other end of the plane … came running back to the cockpit and he was shouting out these numbers … 500 something. He started banging on the cockpit door.”
While Osbon was in the cabin, an off-duty JetBlue pilot who was traveling on the flight managed to enter the cockpit and help the co-pilot land the plane safely.
“Another captain, traveling off duty, entered the flight deck prior to landing at Amarillo, and took over the duties of the ill crewmember once on the ground,” JetBlue said in a statement. “The aircraft arrived Amarillo at 10:11 am CT, and the crewmember was removed from the aircraft and taken to a local medical facility.”
David Gonzalez, a former New York City corrections officer, said he was sitting in the second row of the plane when he saw the clearly troubled captain run from the cockpit and rush toward an occupied bathroom where he started shouting crazy stuff like “Iraq … al-Qaeda … terrorism … we’re all going down!”
Gonzalez said he asked the captain what his problem was, and the unruly pilot replied, “You’d better start praying right now,” and started ranting and raving about Al Qaeda, a bomb, and threatening that the plane is going down.
“I was actually the one that took him down. I noticed he was very erratic,” Gonzalez said. “He was pinned against the door. I was afraid he was going to knock down the door. I was able to put a choke hold on him. I was able to get him weak from cutting his wind pipe.
Gonzalez said, “When he buckled, I realized I had him where I need him. So I put a little more pressure, and that’s when he almost passed out. So I threw him to the floor. That’s when the team came in and started helping me … I just didn’t want him opening up that door. I knew if he got in there, we wouldn’t be sitting here now.”
Gonzalez says he remained on top of the captain until the plane landed because he was afraid of what might happen if he were to break free. He said it “looked like a TV SWAT show” when the they landed and police swarmed the plane.
On the ground, Osbon was taken off the plane in handcuffs and a wheelchair by Amarillo, TX police and was placed into FBI custody.
After the safe landing, passengers thanked Gonzalez and asked to take photos with him, calling him a hero.
49-year-old Clayton Osbon has been flying professionally as a commercial pilot since 1989, and has worked for JetBlue since 2000. He is also (or was) one of the company’s Flight Standards Captains.
As of now, no one knows why he snapped.