Charged JetBlue pilot: 'We're not going to Vegas'
The JetBlue captain who went on a bizarre tirade and was locked out of the cockpit by his co-pilot during a flight from New York to Las Vegas was charged Wednesday with interfering with a flight crew in a federal complaint that revealed dramatic details of his apparent breakdown.
"We're not going to Vegas," Clayton Osbon, 49, told his co-pilot during the flight Tuesday morning, the FBI agent who interviewed the crew said in the affidavit filed in Amarillo, Texas -- where Flight 191 was forced to make an emergency landing.
The veteran pilot, in a stream of strange behavior that began as the flight gained altitude after takeoff from Kennedy Airport, yelled over the radio to air traffic controllers, instructing them to be quiet, turned off the aircraft's radios, dimmed his monitors and "sternly admonished" the co-pilot for trying to talk on the radio, the affidavit says.
Osbon, who lives in the small town of Richmond Hill outside Savannah, Ga., faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine if convicted of the charge. The FAA and the FBI are investigating the incident, and the case is being prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in Amarillo.
JetBlue spokeswoman Alison Steinberg said the airline removed Osbon from active duty Wednesday pending the outcome of the airline's own investigation. The captain, who has flown for JetBlue for 11 years, suffered "a medical emergency" during the flight, she said.
The FBI, in a statement, said Osbon was "under a law enforcement hold at a local medical facility pending completion of its evaluation."
Osbon's involvement with Flight 191 was rocky even before it left the ground at 7:28, about a half-hour after its scheduled departure. Crew members told FBI Special Agent John Whitworth that Osbon arrived late at Kennedy and missed the crew briefing before the flight.
The two-page affidavit gave the following account:
After Flight 191 took off and began to climb, Osbon said something to his co-pilot about being evaluated by someone. The co-pilot told the FBI he wasn't sure what Osbon was talking about.
Osbon went on to speak about his church and the need to "focus" before he asked the co-pilot to take the jet's controls and work the radios, at one point saying, "We need to take a leap of faith."
The co-pilot, referred to as the "first officer" and "FO" in the affidavit, became concerned when Osbon said, "Things just don't matter," and then Osbon began yelling over the radio to air traffic controllers.
Osbon admonished the co-pilot for talking on the radio, and the co-pilot became "really worried" when Osbon said, "We need to take a leap of faith."
After those words, Osbon's behavior became more erratic: He tried to correlate unrelated numbers, such as different radio frequencies, and talked about the "sins" in Las Vegas before delivering what the co-pilot described as "a sermon."
When the co-pilot suggested that an off-duty JetBlue pilot in the passenger cabin be invited to the cockpit, Osbon abruptly left to go to a bathroom at the front of the passenger cabin -- breaching protocol in a way that alarmed flight attendants.
"Osbon banged on the lavatory door and told a female passenger who was inside that he needed to go to the bathroom," the affidavit states.
About three hours and 30 minutes into the flight, Osbon aggressively grabbed the hands of a flight attendant in a forward galley as the attendant attempted to learn if there was a security problem.
Back in the cockpit, the co-pilot instructed a flight attendant to bring the off-duty pilot -- another captain -- to the cockpit while Osbon was in the bathroom. The co-pilot and the off-duty pilot locked the cockpit from the inside, and the off-duty pilot assisted during the remainder of the flight, the affidavit says.
After Osbon came out of the lavatory, his aggressive behavior escalated. His conversation with a flight attendant didn't make sense, and he mentioned "150 souls on board."
Osbon went to the back of the plane, stopping along the way to ask a male passenger "if he had a problem." Then he sprinted back to the forward galley, with flight attendants giving chase.
Sometime during the sequence of events, flight attendants had notified "certain passengers" that their help might be needed in restraining the captain, the affidavit says.
At the cockpit door, Osbon began entering his security code to re-enter the cockpit, and banged on the door so hard that the co-pilot thought Osbon was "coming through the door."
Over the public address system, the co-pilot ordered that Osbon be restrained.
That's when several passengers jumped in to help stop Osbon from entering his security code, and he was pinned down in the forward galley. A female flight attendant suffered bruised ribs during the struggle.
"Guys, push it to full throttle," Osbon said.
After the plane landed at Rick Husband Amarillo Airport, Osbon was taken by ambulance to a hospital for medical evaluation, JetBlue said.
Passengers traveled to Las Vegas on a different flight.
Watch an alleged video of passengers subduing the captain. Newsday has not independently verified the contents of this video.
Complaint and affidavit against Capt. Clayton Frederick Osbon