AMARILLO, Texas (CN) – A JetBlue pilot who ranted about Jesus, Sept. 11 and terrorists, and yelled to the flight crew, “Guys, push it to full throttle,” was charged Wednesday with interfering with a flight crew, according to an FBI agent’s affidavit and an attached federal criminal complaint.
An on-duty pilot facing such a charge is highly unusual – unruly passengers are usually the target.
Clayton Frederick Osbon, 49, caused JetBlue Flight 191 from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport to Las Vegas to be diverted to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport on Tuesday, with 90 minutes to go in a five-hour flight.
According to the FBI agent’s affidavit, the flight’s unidentified first officer and flight attendants said Osbon arrived at JFK later than he should have for the flight and missed the crew briefing.
“As the plane was leaving JFK and climbing in altitude in its scheduled five-hour flight, Osbon said something to the first officer about being evaluated by someone, but the FO [first officer] did not know what he meant,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement. “Osbon then talked about his church and the need to ‘focus’ and asked the FO to take the controls and work the radios. Osbon began talking about religion, but, according to the FO, his statements were not coherent.”
The FBI agent said in his affidavit: “The FO 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 in the aircraft and started dimming his monitors. Osbon sternly admonished the FO for trying to talk on the radio. The FO became really worried when Osbon said, ‘we need to take a leap of faith.’ Osbon started trying to correlate completely unrelated numbers like different radio frequencies, and he talked about sins in Las Vegas. At one point, Osbon told the FO ‘we’re not going to Vegas’. Osbon began giving what the FO described as a sermon.”
The first officer, “concerned with Osbon’s behavior,” suggested they invite an off-duty JetBlue captain into the cockpit, the FBI agent said in the affidavit. But Osbon abruptly left the cockpit, without following security protocol, which “alarmed the rest of the crew,” the FBI agent said.
“When the flight attendants met with him at the front fallery to find out if anything was wrong, Osbon aggressively grabbed a flight attendant’s hands,” according to the affidavit. “Osbon banged on the lavatory door and told a female passenger who was inside that he needed to go to the bathroom.”
While Osbon he was in the the lavatory, a flight attendant brought the off-duty captain to the cockpit where he stayed the rest of the flight, the FBI agent said. When Osbon left the lavatory, he talked with flight attendants about “150 souls on board.”
Osbon walked to the rear of the aircraft, stopped and asked a male passenger if he had a problem, then sprinted back to the forward galley and tried to enter his code to re-enter the cockpit. When the first officer announced an order to restrain Osbon over the intercom, sev, “and he hanged on the door hard enough that the FO thought he was coming through the door,” the FBI agent said.
The affidavit continues: “The FO and non-rev captain locked the cockpit foor from the inside. The FO announced over the PA system an order to restrain Osbon. The flight attendants were already trying to stop Osbon from entering his code. Several passengers jumped in to help and brought Osbon down in the forward galley. One female flight attendant suffered bruised ribs during the struggle. According to one of the passengers who assisted, Osbon said ‘pray fucking now for Jesus Christ’. Osbon also yelled jumbled comments about Jesus, September 11th, Iraq, Iran, and terrorists. He also yelled, ‘Guys, push it to full throttle.'”
The first officer declared an emergency and diverted the jet to Amarillo. “The aircraft landed with passengers still restraining Osbon in the galley,” the FBI agent said.
“The FO, the non-rev captain, and both flight attendants i interviewed all told me that Osbon’s actions interfered with their duties.”
Osbon was taken to Northwest Texas Healthcare System in Amarillo for medical evaluation, where he remains, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Interference with a flight crew is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has 30 days to present the case to a grand jury for indictment.