The JetBlue pilot who had an apparent breakdown on a flight from New York to Las Vegas, ranting about a bomb and terrifying passengers, has been charged in a federal criminal complaint that says he told the co-pilot "things just don't matter" before he began preaching a sermon.
The pilot, Clayton Osbon, 49, is charged with interference with a flight crew, according to federal prosecutors in Texas, where the flight was diverted.
Osbon was taken off active duty pending review of the incident, a spokeswoman said Wednesday. The company had described the episode as a "medical situation" but did not elaborate.
The FBI said Wednesday that Osbon, a JetBlue pilot since 2000, remained "under a law enforcement hold" at a medical facility in Texas. It was not immediately clear whether he had an attorney.
The affidavit filed with the complaint says as the plane climbed in altitude, Osbon mentioned "being evaluated" by someone, and needing to "focus" before he asked the co-pilot to take the controls.
He then began talking incoherently, according to the affidavit, before telling the co-pilot that "things just don't matter." He then said "we need to take a leap of faith," causing the co-pilot to become extremely concerned.
According to the affidavit, Osbon then told the co-pilot, "we're not going to Vegas," and began giving what sounded like a sermon. He then left the cockpit.
Passengers said the pilot's co-workers then tried to calm him as he became more jittery, coaxing him to the back of the plane while making sure he didn't get back near the plane's controls.
At one point, the affidavit said, he mentioned "150 souls on board."
Then, he sprinted up the cabin's aisle — ranting about a bomb, screaming "They're going to take us down!" and urging confused passengers to pray.
After he tried to get back into the locked cockpit, the co-pilot announced over the public address system an order to restrain him. He allegedly continued to yell, talking about Jesus, 9/11, Iran, Iraq and terrorists.
"Nobody knew what to do because he is the captain of the plane," said Don Davis, the owner of a Ronkonkoma, N.Y.-based wireless broadband manufacturer who was traveling to Vegas for a security industry conference.
"You're not just going to jump up and attack the captain," Davis said.
But four men did do just that, using seat belt extenders and zip tie handcuffs to restrain and pin him to the floor for more than 20 minutes while the co-pilot and an off-duty pilot who was aboard landed the plane in Amarillo, Texas.
Osbon faces 20 years in prison if convicted.
The company's CEO and president Dave Barger told NBC's "Today" show that Osbon is a "consummate professional" whom he has "personally known" for years.
There is nothing in Osbon's record to indicate he would be a risk on a flight, Barger said.
"Clearly, he had an emotional or mental type of breakdown," said Tony Antolino, a security executive who sat in the 10th row of the plane.
Elton Stafford, who lives across the street from Osbon in Richmond Hills, Ga., said he was shocked at the captain's outburst.
"Clayton's a great guy. Loves to have a good time, loves the outdoors. He just loves people," Stafford said late Tuesday. "They're the kind of neighbors that everybody wants."
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