JetBlue Pilot Suspended

March 28th, 2012 by Mariah

(CNN) — The JetBlue pilot whose behavior prompted an emergency landing Tuesday has been suspended pending further investigation, the company told CNN on Wednesday.

 

Clayton Osbon was captain of Flight 191 from New York to Las Vegas, which landed in Amarillo, Texas, after crew and passengers subdued him.

 

He has been taken off active duty and is still being paid, JetBlue spokeswoman Tamara Young added.

 

He has worked for the company for 12 years, she said.

CEO Dave Barger said he has known Osbon for “a long time” and that he has always been a “consummate professional.”

 

On NBC’s “Today” show, Barger was asked about Osbon’s reported erratic behavior, which allegedly involved him screaming and trying to get back into the cockpit after his co-pilot locked him out.

 

“What happened at altitude is we had a medical situation,” he said. But, he added, “it became a security situation.”

 

Without using Osbon’s name, Barger said the captain was receiving medical care under the custody of the FBI.

 

Asked about his condition, JetBlue tweeted that it will not share details out of respect for his privacy.

 

No federal charges have been filed so far, said Kathy Colvin, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Texas.

 

“We’re still investigating,” said Lydia Maese, an FBI spokeswoman. “We coordinated with the FAA, TSA, Amarillo Police Department and the airport police.”

 

Osbon has not made a public statement, and no attorney has made one on his behalf.

 

The Twitter page for a Clayton F. Osbon describes him as “JetBlue Flight Standards Captain” for the Airbus320, as well as a leadership coach. Tuesday’s Flight 191 from New York to Las Vegas was on an Airbus 320.

 

The Twitter page shows no tweets since January.

 

Both the Twitter and LinkedIn pages in Osbon’s name also describe him as a director of Body By Vi. The LinkedIn page says the company helps “people to a better life” through health and financial prosperity.

 

A Facebook page for a Clayton Osbon says he is married and lives in Savannah, Georgia.

 

The blog Writer Killing Darlings carries a profile of Osbon, which it says was published last year in the magazine Richmond Hill Reflections.

 

“Clayton lives with his wife of six years, Connye, and enough animals to make a lint-brush essential,” the story says.

 

In addition to his love of flying, Osbon “wants to be a motivational speaker down the road,” the story says.

 

“It starts with a greater enhanced knowledge of one’s being… you know, I’d like to think the world is more than just getting up in the morning, making a cup of coffee, going to work, coming home, kissing your wife good-night and going to bed,” it quotes him as saying.

 

A search of public records showed no criminal history for Osbon. It turned up a traffic violation in 2005 which involved no fine.

 

JetBlue spokeswoman Alison Croyle said she is not aware of any fallout in bookings or any cancellations as a result of the incident.

 

When asked about passengers jumping in to help, Croyle said, “I know that our flight crews are trained for different levels of incidents in that regard. In this instance we do believe they acted within guidelines.

 

They are trained to ask for passenger help if needed.”

Barger told NBC, “We always take a look at procedures” involving

screening for pilots, but said the company has confidence in the

 

JetBlue and industry-wide procedures in place.

He repeatedly praised the JetBlue crew and passengers for their response and the “consummate training” the crew showed when “called into action” during what was a “tough event, to say the least.”

 

The co-pilot, concerned by his colleague’s “erratic” behavior, locked the door behind the captain when he left the cockpit during the flight, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

 

Passengers described to CNN what happened next.

 

“The pilot ran to the cockpit door, began banging on it and said something to the effect of, ‘We’ve gotta pull the throttle back. We’ve gotta get this plane down,’” said Laurie Dhue.

 

“At that point, the two flight attendants tried to subdue him, and then seemingly out of nowhere, about six or seven large guys stormed to the front of the plane and wrestled the captain of the plane down to the ground and had him subdued in a matter of moments. It was really like something out of a movie,” she said.

 

Amateur video of the incident showed a commotion as several men were moving in the aisle. A voice, purportedly that of the pilot, can be heard.

 

“Oh my God. I’m so distraught!” he shouts. The voice mentions Israel and Iraq.

 

In another video, passengers appeared to be standing over something, or someone, presumably the subdued pilot.

 

Paul Babakitis, another passenger and a retired New York police officer, said he was one of the men who helped wrestle the captain to the ground.

 

“I felt if he got in the cockpit, he was going to try to take that plane down, and not for a safe landing,” he said.

 

Law enforcement met the aircraft, cuffed the pilot and took him off the plane, Babakitis said. Video showed someone being carried off the plane in a sort of chair.

 

“I’m not foreign to situations like this, but I don’t expect them at 30,000 feet,” he said.

 

Babakitis and some other passengers reported hearing the captain say the word “bomb” at one point. However, passenger Jason Levin said he did not hear him say that.

 

Levin was sitting in the front row of the plane, full of people on their way to a security conference, when the pilot came out of the cockpit.

 

“It just seemed like something triggered him to go off the wall. He would be calm one minute and then just all of sudden turn,” he said. “If it was going to happen, it happened at the right time and the right

place.”

 

Passenger Tony Antolino hailed the co-pilot as a hero.

 

“The co-pilot of the flight, he really — I think — is the hero here because he had the sense to recognize that something was going horribly wrong, and he was able to persuade the pilot out of the cockpit,” he told CNN.

 

The flight left New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport at 7:28 a.m.

 

“At roughly 10 a.m. CT/11 a.m. ET, the pilot in command elected to divert to Amarillo, Texas, for a medical situation involving the captain. Another captain, traveling off duty, entered the flight deck prior to landing at Amarillo and took over the duties of the ill crew member once on the ground,” JetBlue said.

 

The crew member was taken off the plane and transported to a medical facility, it added.

 

Everything considered, passenger Antolino said he felt thankful. “This could have had a horrific outcome.”