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Charges Filed Against JetBlue Captain Suspected Of In-Flight Disturbance

jetblue pilot clayton osbon
Emergency workers stand around the pilot of a JetBlue plane who was removed from his flight due to a medical issue. (Photo credit Steve Miller/The Reporter's Edge)

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) –  Federal prosecutors in Dallas have filed a criminal complaint against the pilot accused of causing a disturbance on a JetBlue flight that had to be diverted to Amarillo Tuesday.

Clayton Osbon, 49, is facing a charge of knowingly interfering and attempting to interfere with the performance of the duties of a flight crew member and flight attendant of the aircraft.

According to the criminal affidavit, Osbon showed up late for the flight from New York to Las Vegas and missed the crew briefing. The affidavit says he wasn't acting strangely before takeoff, but "as they were climbing out of JFK, Osbon said something to the (pilot) about being evaluated by someone."

The pilot told investigators Osbon then began speaking about his church and how he needed to "focus." The captain then made incoherent statements about religion, the affidavit says.

Osbon's colleague told investigators he first became concerned after the captain said "things just don't matter" before yelling over the radio at air traffic control to be quiet.

The affidavit then says Osbon turned off the radios and began dimming the monitors and scolded other pilots for attempting to speak with air traffic controllers.

The pilot told investigators he "became really worried" after Osbon declared "we need to take a leap of faith." Soon after, the affidavit says the captain told the pilot "we're not going to Vegas."

After this, the affidavit says Osbon exited the cockpit and attempted to charge into an occupied bathroom. Another pilot slipped into the cockpit to take over Osbon's duties, the affidavit says.

Passengers told reporters Tuesday that Osbon began exhibiting bizarre behavior just before realizing he had been locked out of the cockpit. Osbon allegedly began screaming "let me in" and banged on the door so hard the other pilots thought he was going to break through, the affidavit states.

The rest of the crew was concerned, the affidavit says, because Osbon disregarded security protocol upon leaving the cockpit.

He aggressively grabbed a flight attendant's hand and then began banging on the occupied restroom, telling a passenger she needed to exit because he needed to use it, the affidavit says.

After leaving the lavatory, the affidavit says Osbon mentioned "150 souls on board."

Colleagues tried to keep Osbon near the back of the plane, but he sprinted back up the cabin's aisle after asking a male passenger "if he had a problem."

Passengers said Osbon began yelling about Jesus, Sept. 11, Iraq, Iran and terrorists and asked them to "pray f––– now for Jesus Christ" before a flight attendant jumped on the intercom and asked for those onboard to "restrain him."

The affidavit says the captain also yelled "Guys, push it to full throttle."

Osbon was tackled to the floor and pinned until the plane landed in Amarillo. Flight 191 departed New York's John F. Kennedy Airport about three-and-a-half hours before the disruption and was on its way to Las Vegas. The flight was scheduled to take five hours.

Interference with Flight Crew Members and Attendants is punishable by a $250,000 fine and/or up to 20 years in prison, according to this Federal Aviation Administration document.

JetBlue had already suspended the captain before he was charged. Osbon is currently being held at an in-state medical facility.

Late Tuesday afternoon, CBSDFW received this statement from the FAA:

"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. Passengers are currently awaiting continuation of their travel to Las Vegas.

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

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