JetBlue pilot charged with interfering with crew
Updated 6:44 PM ET
(CBS/AP) Federal prosecutors late Wednesday filed charges against the JetBlue pilot who had an apparent psychiatric episode, yelling about a bomb, telling passengers to pray, and banging on the cockpit door on a flight bound for Las Vegas a day earlier.
Clayton Frederick Osbon, 49, is charged in U.S. district court with interfering with inflight crew members, the same charge sometimes levied against unruly passengers or those who refuse to turn off electronics or comply with other instructions.
Osbon "moved through the aircraft and was disruptive and had to be subdued and forcibly restrained from re-entering the cockpit," the criminal complaint states.
Osbon told his co-pilot that "things don't matter" shortly after JetBlue Flight 191 from New York departed Tuesday, according to an affidavit. Court documents say Osbon told the plane's first officer that "we're not going to Vegas" and began what he described as a sermon.
"The (first officer) became really worried when Osbon said `we need to take a leap of faith,"' according to the sworn affidavit given by an FBI agent. "Osbon started trying to correlate completely unrelated numbers like different radio frequencies, and he talked about sins in Las Vegas."
Passengers wrestled Osbon to the ground after he left the cockpit and later sprinted down the cabin yelling and urging everyone to pray. The plane made an emergency landing in Amarillo, Texas. No one on board was seriously hurt.
Mark Sellouk, one of the passengers on that flight, was interviewed by CBS News correspondent Lee Cowan about that moment up in the air.
"I'm looking at this happening," he said, "and [Osbon's] getting more and more violent, and now he's starting to say, 'Pray to Jesus," and he started yelling inside to the flight deck, 'Throttle to idle, throttle to idle! Bring this plane down! Al Qaeda is here!'"
Cowan asked Sellouk what was going through his mind. "I'm thinking of my family, my kids and my wife, and I'm looking at this guy," Sellouk said. "I'm thinking, 'This is how it's going to end."
Under federal law, a conviction for interference with a flight crew or attendants can bring up to 20 years in prison. The offense is defined as assaulting or intimidating the crew, interfering with its duties or diminishes its ability to operate the plane.
The charges came as new details emerged Wednesday about the bizarre behavior Osbon exhibited during the flight, including unnecessarily fiddling with the plane's controls and complaining of "too much noise" into the radio monitored by air traffic controllers and other pilots, CBS News investigative producer Pat Milton reports.
A source who spoke on condition of anonymity revealed new details to Milton of what happened in the cockpit before Osbon behaved erratically and was subdued in the cabin by passengers of Flight 191 between New York and Las Vegas. Osbon was taken into FBI custody in Amarillo, Texas, after the plane made an emergency landing there.
In addition to complaining about the noise into the radio, Osbon also said to "keep the chatter down." CBS News' Carter Yang reports that Osbon was improperly pressing buttons on the flight panel and "speaking incoherently" in the cockpit, according to a source.
JetBlue said Wednesday that Osbon "has been removed from active duty" pending an investigation involving multiple federal and local agencies, Yang reports.
Osbon has been a pilot for JetBlue since 2000. The company's CEO and president Dave Barger told NBC's "Today" show that Osbon is a "consummate professional" whom he has "personally known" for years.
On Wednesday, Osbon was being guarded by Amarillo police officers while undergoing between two and three days of psychiatric testing to try and determine what may have led to what passengers described as a meltdown, Milton reports.
According to Federal Aviation Administration documents, Osbon's last medical exam was in December, and he was cleared to fly, Yang reports. The exam is primarily a physical, but "psychological condition" is also taken into account, and the medical examiner can order additional testing. If Osbon showed signs of mental instability in the exam, he wouldn't have received clearance to fly.
CBS News senior correspondent John Miller reported that authorities haven't found any known associations between Osbon and terrorist groups.On "CBS This Morning" Wednesday, Miller said that the investigation has shifted its focus to what medical reasons, if any, could explain Osbon's erratic behavior.
(At left, watch Miller's conversation with co-hosts Erica Hill, Gayle King and Charlie Rose)
"What the FBI needs to find out now is everything they can about this guy and what could have caused this, either physiologically, mentally, chemically," Miller said.
Investigators have spoken with Osbon's wife, who told them he didn't display any signs of abnormal behavior in front of her, Milton reports. Investigators learned from other interviews that Osbon had a great reputation, was highly regarded among his colleagues and assisted in JetBlue's pilot training program.
Osbon's behavior Tuesday prompted the flight's co-pilot to convince Osbon to leave the cockpit by saying something like he should splash water on his face. While Osbon was in the lavatory, the co-pilot instructed a flight attendant on the plane's intercom system to immediately bring into the cockpit an off-duty captain who was traveling as a passenger.
With the off-duty captain inside the cockpit, the co-pilot changed the combination lock to the door before Osbon could return.
On "CBS This Morning," passengers Tony Antolino and retired New York police Sgt. Paul Babakitis described Osbon as "deranged," "emotionally disturbed" and "erratic" while he was in the cabin.
"He started ranting about Iraq, Iran, 'they're going to take us down,' uh, 'say the Lord's prayer,'" said Antolino, "and then at that point we literally just tackled him to the ground and restrained him."
Babakitis wasn't the only person with a law enforcement background on the flight. Also among the passengers was a corrections guard who Milton reports was traveling to Las Vegas to attend an international security conference.
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