|JetBlue Pilot Shouted About 9/11, Yelled 'Push It to Full Throttle'|
|By JIM AVILA (@JimAvilaABC) , MATT HOSFORD (@ABCaviation) and CHRISTINA NG (@ChristinaNg27)||Mar 28, 2012, 3:57 AM|
The JetBlue pilot who had to be restrained by passengers was hit today with criminal charges as court documents reveal he ranted about Sept. 11 and yelled, "Guys, push it to full throttle."
Capt. Clayton Osbon, 49, was suspended from his duties today and charged with interfering with flight crew instructions. According to the Department of Justice, this charge could be punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
The charges were accompanied by an FBI affidavit that provides a fresh view of what went on in the cockpit of the plane before Osbon burst into the plane's cabin.
It also states that at the height of the melee on board the Las Vegas bound jetliner carrying 131 passenger and six crew members, Osbon's rant made alarming allusions to terrorists.
"Osbon also yelled jumbled comments about Jesus, September 11, Iraq, Iran, and terrorists," according to the criminal complaint. "He also yelled, 'Guys, push it to full throttle.'"
Osbon's behavior became ominous shortly after takeoff from New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. As the plane gained altitude he mentioned something about "being evaluated" to the plane's first officer. The officer was not sure what Osbon meant.
"Osbon began talking about religion, but his statements were not coherent," the affidavit said. "The [first officer] became concerned when Osbon said 'things just don't matter.' Osbon yelled over the radio to air traffic control and instructed them to be quiet."
Osbon turned off the radios and began to dim the monitor. The first officer became "really worried" when Osbon said, "We need to take a leap of faith," "We're not going to Vegas," and "began giving what the FO described as a sermon."
The captain spoke about "completely unrelated numbers" and the "sins in Las Vegas."
The concerned officer suggested to Osbon that they invite an off duty JetBlue captain who was traveling as a passenger to the cockpit, but, instead, Osbon abruptly left the cockpit.
In the cabin, Osbon allegedly "aggressively grabbed a flight attendant's hands" and mentioned "150 souls on board" before sprinting back to the galley and eventually trying to get back into the cockpit, where the first officer had already changed the security code.
Crew members also said that Osbon had "showed up at JFK later than he should have for the flight and missed the crew briefing."
The FAA called the incident a medical emergency, but law enforcement sources have called the outburst a panic attack.
"As of now, he's been taken off all active duties and responsibilities pending further investigation," JetBlue spokeswoman Tamara Young told ABCNews.com today.
An unruly Osbon, with 131 passengers and six crew members aboard flight 191, was subdued by at least five passengers after his co-pilot reportedly locked him out of the cockpit when he displayed potentially dangerous behavior. The flight from Kennedy Airport in New York was diverted to Amarillo, Texas.
Another incident occurred on Tuesday during a flight from North Carolina to Florida when Peggy Albedhady-Sanchez, 50, allegedly kicked and spit on a U.S. Airways flight attendant who refused to serve her alcohol. Today, Albedhady-Sanchez was charged with three counts of battery and one count of interfering with an aircraft.
Osbon, a commercial pilot since 1989, was not at the controls but "began acting erratically, flipping switches in the cockpit and appearing confused," according to the sources. They said his co-pilot tricked him into going to the passenger compartment to check something out, then locked the door and changed the security code behind him.
Osbon's last medical exam was in December 2011, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. His FAA record has no accidents or incidents and no enforcements.
Passenger David Gonzalez, a former corrections officer from New York City, said he was sitting in the second row of flight 191 when he saw the captain storm out of the cockpit and rush toward an occupied bathroom. Flight attendants struggled to control him and Gonzalez, 50, said the captain began moving in the direction of the plane's emergency exit.
Gonzalez said he had gone to help the flight attendant and asked the captain what his problem was. Gonzalez said the unruly pilot replied, "You'd better start praying right now," and was shouting about Al Qaeda, a bomb, and threatening that the plane is going down.
"I was actually the one that took him down. I noticed he was very erratic," Gonzalez said. "He was pinned against the door. I was afraid he was going to knock down the door. I was able to put a choke hold on him. I was able to get him weak from cutting his wind pipe.
"When he buckled, I realized I had him where I need him. So I put a little more pressure, and that's when he almost passed out. So I threw him to the floor. That's when the team came in and started helping me ? I just didn't want him opening up that door. I knew if he got in there, we wouldn't be sitting here now."
Gonzalez felt the man get weak and he passed out about three minutes later. The men, who took off their belts to tie his legs, as Osbon was reportedly able to break through plastic handcuffs, sat on the pilot until landing.
"If he got a second wind, I'd have to apply more pressure and I didn't want to hurt him," Gonzalez said. "I just wanted to get him calm, get the plane down and get him some medical assistance."
Gonzalez, who lives in the Poconos area of Pennsylvania and is a married father of five children, said he used to work for the New York City Department of Correction and now works for a security and surveillance company. He was on his way to Las Vegas for an annual security show.
On the ground, Osbon was taken off the plane in handcuffs and a wheelchair by Amarillo police. He is now in FBI custody. Once safe on the ground, passengers thanked Gonzalez and asked to take photos with him, hailing him a hero.
JetBlue Pilot: Should FAA Doctors Do Psychological Screen?
While airline pilots submit to yearly medical tests by an FAA doctor, psychiatric screening is not a required element of testing.
"If there's no suspicion on the part of the doctor, they will sign that they're clear to fly," Kevin Hiatt, a veteran commercial captain and now safety consultant said.
Hiatt also adds that there is no specific training for what to do if your co-pilot loses it during flight either.
"The pilots are trained on what to do if a partner becomes incapacitated and can't land the aircraft," Hiatt said.
Tuesday's incident is not the first time airline crews have alarmed or even killed passengers. In October 1999 on Egypt Air, flight 990, a 767 from New York to Cairo with 217 aboard, disappeared when the co-pilot deliberately crashed the plane into the Atlantic.
In 1997, a Silk Air 737 flying over Indonesia nose-dived, killing 104 passengers. Investigators say the pilot committed suicide, taking all of his passengers with him.
Earlier this month, an American Airlines flight attendant had to be restrained after threatening impending doom. That plane returned to the gate and the flight attendant was taken away, complaining of psychiatric problems.
ABC News' Josh Haskell and Kevin Dolak contributed to this report.