JetBlue captain removed from cockpit by co-pilot

March 28, 2012 4:02:16 AM PDT
A JetBlue captain is in FBI custody after sources tell ABC News he was acting erratically on a flight that was diverted from JFK to Amarillo, Texas.


According to sources on the plane, the co-pilot removed the captain from the cockpit and another captain, traveling off duty, entered the flight deck prior to landing at Amarillo, and took over the duties.

ABC News has identified the pilot as Clayton Osbon.

Witnesses say the Captain was subdued by passengers after trying to regain access to the cockpit.

Heidi Karg, a passenger on the flight, told CNN that she heard a lot of commotion. She said a man was trying to get into the cockpit, shouting "I need the code, gimme the code, I need to get in there." The pilot urged for someone to restrain him, she said.

"We heard the word 'bomb,'" Karg said. "We didn't know exactly what was going on."

Karg said she thought the man was the captain of the flight but that she wasn't certain. Some male passengers wrestled him to the ground.

The flight took off from JFK before 7:30 a.m. and was headed to Las Vegas before being diverted to Amarillo, Texas.

Another plane arrived in Texas to take the passengers to Las Vegas.

"This morning, at approximately 9:53 a.m. Central Time, a Jet Blue flight en route to Las Vegas from New York JFK International Airport was diverted to Amarillo Rick Husband International Airport for an onboard medical emergency.

"Preliminary information indicates that after landing, it was learned that the co-pilot became concerned that the captain exhibited erratic behavior during the flight. The captain had exited the cockpit during the flight, after which the co-pilot locked the door. When the captain attempted to enter the locked cockpit, he was subdued by passengers. After the flight landed safely, local law enforcement secured the pilot without incident, and he was transported by ambulance for medical evaluation.

"The aircraft was towed to the terminal building and the passengers were safely deplaned from the aircraft.

The FBI, FAA, TSA and local law enforcement are coordinating on this incident."

JetBlue released the following statement:
"Flight 191 departed New York's JFK airport at 7:28 am ET (was scheduled to depart 6:55 am ET). At roughly 10 am CT/11 am ET, the pilot in command elected to divert to Amarillo, TX for a medical situation involving the Captain. 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. The aircraft arrived Amarillo at 10:11 am CT, and the crewmember was removed from the aircraft and taken to a local medical facility."

As a result of the incident, the FAA is likely to review the captain'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 are required to be renewed every year if the pilot is under 40, every six months if 40 or over.

To obtain a certificate, the pilot must receive a physical examination by an FAA-designated medical examiner that includes questions about the pilot's psychological condition. The medical examiner can order additional psychological testing.

Pilots are required to disclose all existing physical and psychological conditions and medications.

Meantime, those who know the pilot are shocked.

"I feel bad he's like a son," said Wanda Serra, Clayton Osbon's landlord.

Tuesday night, Clayton Osbon's landlord is heartbroken over the JetBlue pilot's troubles.

"Beautiful man, beautiful man," Serra said, "Great guy, he's a hustler working all the time."

For more than a decade the pilot has rented a room for $230 on the second floor of a house in South Ozone Park.

It is where he unwinds after flying.

Residents say he plays with the neighborhood kids and roots for the Giants.

What happened earlier Tuesday seems so out of character.

"Things happen, but I would never have expected it from a guy like that, something got to him," said John Morganti, a resident.

Residents say there has to be an explanation.

Was it the pressure of the job? For now his friends just don't know.

"It can get to anybody, away from your family as much as these guys are," said Jim Capace, a friend.



(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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