A pilot residing in South Ozone Park is facing 20 years to life in prison following a bizarre midair incident aboard a JetBlue airplane that has caught national attention.
Clayton Osbon, 49, a 12-year pilot working for airline company JetBlue, has been the subject of intense scrutiny following his apparent mid-flight meltdown which he suffered on March 27 as he piloted a commercial plane carrying 135 passengers and six crew members from New York to Las Vegas.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), a federal criminal compliant was filed against Osbon, who now faces charges of interfering with a flight crew, as a result of a strange pattern of behavior he followed that day.
According to FBI officials, Osbon, was scheduled to pilot JetBlue Flight 191 from New York’s John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport to Las Vegas, a five-hour flight.
According to witnesses, Osbon had arrived that day at the airport later than he should have and missed the crew briefing for the flight.
As the plane was leaving JFK and climbing in altitude during the flight, Osbon allegedly went into a series of incoherent rantings about religion while asking his first officer to take the controls and work the radios.
The complaint further stated that Osbon said “things just don’t matter,” and yelled over the radio to air traffic control and instructed them to be quiet. Some time later, Osbon abruptly left the cockpit to go to the bathroom without following company protocol for leaving the cockpit.
The situation deteriorated to the point where the crew issued an order over the public address system to restrain Osbon, to which several passengers assisted and brought Osbon down in the forward galley, where he continued to yell comments about Jesus, September 11, Iraq, Iran, and terrorists.
As a result, the crew declared an emergency and landed the plane in Amarillo, Texas, with passengers still restraining Osbon inside the plane. Osbon was taken from the aircraft to a facility in the Northwest Texas Healthcare System in Amarillo for medical evaluation.
JetBlue issued a statement regarding the incident on March 30.
“On behalf of the crew of Flight 191, we would like to express our appreciation for the public’s kind words and well wishes for the crew,” the statement read. “We understand and appreciate everyone’s desire to hear directly from the crew regarding their experience, but the crew has decided to decline all media opportunities in order to spend time with their families.”
The Osbon family also released a statement on April 1 declining interviews, but which concluded, “It is our belief, as Clayton’s family, that while he was clearly distressed, he was not intentionally violent toward anyone. We know you were placed in an awful situation and we appreciate your ability to respond professionally.”
By Jean-Paul Salamanca