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JetBlue's midair meltdown is extinguished

A JetBlue captain is taken off his aircraft

A JetBlue captain is taken off his aircraft in Amarillo, Texas, after his loud rant caused passengers to subdue him. (March 27, 2012) Credit: AP

Remember the good old days, when an erratic JetBlue employee was content to grab a few beers, berate a rude passenger, deploy the emergency chute and slide to freedom?

A flight on its way Tuesday from Kennedy Airport to Las Vegas was a lot scarier than that, when the clearly disoriented and unhinged captain was tricked into leaving the cabin and locked out by his crafty and alert co-pilot, then subdued by passengers alarmed at his rantings about God, bombs, the Lord's Prayer and al-Qaida.

Such incidents are rare and the pilot, reportedly a good and reliable employee and person, may well be discovered to have been suffering from an illness or medication-related fugue. Pilots are regularly screened for physical and mental problems, and while there is no evidence the man ever raised alarms in the past, he has now been charged with interfering with a flight crew.

He is almost certainly no terrorist, yet some of the changes we have made in the age of terrorism -- locks on steel-reinforced cockpit doors and heightened alertness on the part of both the crew and the New Yorkers who tackled him -- may have prevented a disaster.

They say any landing you can walk away from is a good one, and this flight fits that bill. The co-pilot, crew and passengers are to be congratulated for their quick and appropriate responses. The changes in our attitudes and security measures also deserve a bit of applause.