JetBlue captain irked by cockpit "chatter"

Man taken off JetBlue flight in Amarillo, Texas, on Tuesday March 27, 2012. Steve Miller/The Reporter's Edge

Updated at 3:01 p.m. ET

(CBS News) Some of the bizarre behavior exhibited by a JetBlue Airways captain mid-flight Tuesday included 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 Clayton Osbon, 49, 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.

Captain Clayton Osbon at JetBlue event at LAX Airport on June 17, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.
Getty/Soul Brother/WireImage

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.

JetBlue captain could face charges from meltdown
JetBlue fliers: Captain was "deranged," "erratic"
Passengers: JetBlue pilot reached for plane door

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.

Charges are expected to be brought against Osbon as early as Wednesday afternoon. Those charges may include interfering with the flight crew, the type of charge that can be applied to passengers refusing to turn off their cell phone in-flight, in addition to probably more serious charges.

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 travelling to Las Vegas to attend an international security conference.

  • Alex Sundby

    Alex Sundby is an associate news editor for CBSNews.com

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.