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Monday, July 15, 2024 | Back issues
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JetBlue Faces Federal Suit Over Ranting Pilot

AMARILLO, Texas (CN) - Two dozen more Jetblue passengers have joined a lawsuit over a pilot whose insane rant about Jesus and terrorists forced an emergency landing.

A federal judge in Amarillo, Texas, found the 49-year-old pilot, Clayton Frederick Osbon, not guilty by reason of insanity of interfering with a flight crew.

An on-duty pilot facing such a charge is highly unusual - unruly passengers are usually the target.

Passengers say trouble erupted while they were flying from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to Las Vegas in March.

With 90 minutes to go in a five-hour flight, Osbon caused JetBlue Flight 191 to be diverted to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

The original complaint against JetBlue, filed by 10 passengers in June, was removed from Queens County Supreme Court to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in August.

An amended federal complaint filed Thursday in Brooklyn, N.Y., includes 24 new plaintiffs.

"The defendant did knowingly interfere and attempt to interfere with the flight crew of Jetblue Flight 191 and while the flight was in progress, did move through the aircraft and was disruptive and had to be forcibly restrained from re-entering the cockpit," the 33-page amended complaint states. "While the plane was in midair, Osbon told the first officer that they would not make it to their destination. Osbon started rambling about religion. He scolded air traffic controllers to quiet down, then turned off the radios altogether and dimmed the monitors in the cockpit. He said aloud that 'things just don't matter' and encouraged his copilot to take a leap of faith."

As the passengers were climbing out of JFK Airport, Osbon allegedly said something to the first officer about "being evaluated by someone." He then started talking about his church and needing to "focus," and then started trying to correlate completely unrelated numbers like different radio frequencies, according to the complaint. He also allegedly talked about "sins in Las Vegas."

"Osbon yelled over the radio to air traffic controllers and instructed them to be quiet," the amended complaint states. "Osbon then turned off the radio in the cockpit and dimmed the monitors. The co-pilot became extremely worried by Osbon behavior and succeeded in getting him to leave the cockpit."

Once there, Osbon entered the passenger area, ran to the back of the aircraft and then to the front of the aircraft, where he began pounding on the locked cockpit door, the complaint states.

He then yelled and rambled about Sept. 11, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, al-Qaida and terrorists, according to the complaint.

Passengers say Osbon yelled: "pray fucking now for Jesus Christ," "Say your prayers," "we're all going down," "you better start praying right now," "I'm going to show you Iraq and Iran right now," "there's a bomb on board," "the plane will never make it to Vegas," and other "threatening and terrifying" statements.

The plane's crew and passengers then tackled and struggled with Osborn to restrain him after an announcement on the public address system.

Passengers say that Osbon suffered another psychotic episode in August in a medical prison. They say Jetblue was negligent in allowing Osborn to fly; that it failed to "exercise proper supervision to protect" them; that they sustained "extreme emotional pain, suffering and distress, fear of death, burning, wounding, maiming and other physical injuries, to be deprived of their lives, to be deprived of their loved ones."

The plaintiffs each seek $3 million in actual and punitive damages for emotional distress, negligent supervision and other charges. They are represented by Manhattan attorney Johnathan Reiter.

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