Pilot Says JetBlue Should Have Known|He Was Too Sick to Fly

     (CN) – A JetBlue pilot who was locked out of the cockpit and had to be subdued by passengers sued the airline Friday, claiming it knew or should have known that he was “physically and mentally unfit to fly” that day.
     Air Capt. Clayton Osbon was locked out of the cockpit on JetBlue Flight 191 from New York’s JFK Airport to Las Vegas on March 27, 2012. The incident made worldwide headlines.
     First Officer Jason Dowd locked Osbon out of the cockpit after Osbon made alarming statements such as, “We need to take a leap of faith,” “We’re not going to Vegas,” and “I can’t be held responsible for when this plane crashes,” according to contemporary news reports.
     Osbon then began giving what Dowd called a “sermon.” Passengers tackled him and tied him up as he ranted about Jesus, al-Qaida and a bomb on board. The flight was diverted to Amarillo and landed safely. Osbon was charged with interfering with a flight crew but was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
     Osbon sued JetBlue Airways in Manhattan Federal Court on Friday, for negligence, breach of contract and damage to his reputation. He claims that he obviously was unfit to fly that day but the airline let him take control of the aircraft anyway. He seeks $15 million in damages.
     First Officer Dowd is not a party to the complaint.
     In the 18-page lawsuit, Osbon said he had a spotless record in 25 years as a commercial pilot. He flew for JetBlue from 2000 until it suspended him on the day of his panic attack.
     “Unknown to Captain Osbon, a childhood traumatic head injury damaged his brain,” the complaint states. “Captain Osbon fully recovered from the initial injury, except for the unknown brain damage, and was completely asymptomatic until in or around March 27, 2012.”
     That day, he says, for this first time in his life, he suffered “a complex partial brain seizure.”
     “Captain Osbon’s seizure severely impaired his ability to perform basic activities, caused him to hallucinate, and caused extreme feelings of paranoia and religious fervor,” the complaint states.
     “The seizure’s symptoms slowly increased over time, causing Captain Osbon to experience increasing paranoia and religious fervor and correspondingly decreasing control over his actions.”
     Osbon claims that he was not responsible for his actions that day, because of the seizure.
     JetBlue had warning, he says.
     He claims that he missed the preflight meeting, for the first time in his 12 years with JetBlue, though the airline called him five times.
     He claims that First Officer Dowd and other flight crew members knew him from previous flights, and should have known he was ill.
     “As of March 27, 2012, JetBlue, however, failed to provide proper mechanisms and guidance for the replacement of unfit crew members,” Osbon says in the complaint.
     He claims that when he did arrive for Flight 191, he was “disheveled and disoriented.”
     “Captain Osbon’s uniform, appearance, and demeanor clearly demonstrated that something was wrong and that he was not fit to fly,” he says in the complaint.
     “Captain Osbon’s behavior was highly unusual. Based upon the flight crew’s experience with Captain Osbon, they knew or should have known that something was wrong and that Captain Osbon was not fit to fly.”
     He claims, among other things, that he was “slow and inefficient” as he went through preflight checks, and that he required “substantial assistance” from Dowd.
     JetBlue let him fly though he continued to show “clear evidence and warning signs that he required immediate medical attention,” Osbon says.
     He claims that he missed two or more radio check-ins within 10 minutes of takeoff, and “reacted with surprise” when Dowd told him he had missed them.
     “At this point, Captain Osbon advised First Officer Dowd that he was clearly unfit to fly, perform his duties as the Pilot Monitoring, and advised First Officer Dowd that he was no longer able to assist with the flight,” the complaint states.
     “Captain Osbon relieved himself of command despite the fact he was in the midst of brain seizure and rapidly losing touch with reality.”
     He says there is “no justification” for JetBlue and its employees to have failed to recognize that he was losing his mind.
     “After Captain Osbon relieved himself of command, he rapidly began to lose the last limited remaining control over his body and mind.
     “Captain Osbon began to rant and rave about the likelihood of a terrorist attack, various imagined dangers, and the need for Flight 191’s crew and passengers to embrace religion,” the complaint states.
     He acknowledges that, in his mania, he “ran down the aisles screaming and ranting concerning imagined terrorism and the need for all on board to embrace religion.”
     “During this time, Captain Osbon lost control of his bodily functions.
     “Several of the passengers recorded Captain Osbon’s actions and posted them to social media sites.
     “The passengers and crew used force to subdue Captain Osbon causing him to incur physical injuries.
     “When the plane landed, Captain Osbon finally received the medical treatment he needed.
     “Captain Osbon was subsequently charged with federal crimes including interfering with a flight crew, punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment.”
     Charges were dismissed, but he is still subject to monitoring.
     He has surrendered his pilot’s certificate for medical reasons.
     He seeks $4.9 million in lost wages, $250,000 in severance, $2.4 million for damage to his reputation, $2.4 million for emotional distress, $100,000 for physical injuries, and $4.9 million in punitive damages.
     He is represented by Jeffrey Liddle, with Liddle & Robinson.
     Feelings of grandiosity and religious mania are not unusual in some forms of insanity and brain damage.
     Osbon filed his lawsuit three days after a European copilot for Germanwings killed 150 people, apparently by taking control of the aircraft, locking the pilot out of the cockpit, and deliberately crashing into the Alps.
     The copilot, Andreas Lubitz, is believed to have hidden a recent medical diagnosis of depression from the airline, in which doctors said he was too sick to work.
     No one survived the Germanwings crash.

%d bloggers like this: