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As if we needed any confirmation — there isn’t an ounce of complacency left in fliers.

On Tuesday, passengers on a JetBlue flight from JFK to Vegas used their weight and two kinds of belts — seat and pant — to subdue an unhinged pilot who had what’s being described as a mid-flight meltdown.

After Clayton Osbon was locked out of the cockpit by a co-pilot who told FAA investigators that the captain was exhibiting “erratic behavior,” Osbon fumed and seethed about Iraq, Iran and Al Qaeda, beseeched passengers to pray, and said the plane was in immediate danger of being shot down. He called for a landing.

Osbon got his wish. With four passengers restraining the still-ranting captain, his colleagues, including an off-duty JetBlue pilot who was onboard, made an emergency landing in Amarillo, Texas.

While the fliers-turned-security detail — reportedly comprising a retired police sergeant, a security exec and two others — held Osbon down, another passenger filmed the chaos in the cabin with a cell phone. The grainy visual won’t win any awards for in-flight cinematography, but the audio offers a glimpse into the chaotic scene at 35,000 feet. Following that video is a short clip of Osbon being removed from the plane.

The Christian Science Monitor reported today that Osbon, a 12-year pilot for JetBlue, has been charged with “interfering with crew-member instructions.” A CBS report published before the formal charges were issued now rings bizarre but true — it said that Osban could become the “first airline pilot accused of interfering with his own flight.”

Pending an investigation, JetBlue has suspended Osban from flying. CBS reports that FBI investigators are waiting to listen to the cockpit conversation preceding the incident captured on the plane’s “black box.”

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JetBlue CEO Dave Barger, who appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” Wednesday, called the incident a “medical situation that turned into a security one,” said Reuters. Osbon, whom Barger called a consummate professional that he’s known for years, is in federal custody at a medical facility in Amarillo.

This latest incident comes less than three weeks after an American Airlines flight attendant was subdued by passengers and de-planed after ranting about September 11 and saying the plane was going to crash. The AA jet was on the ground at the time.

Do incidents like these make you more nervous about flying?

— written by Dan Askin

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One Response to “Ranting JetBlue Captain Subdued by Passengers”

  1. D. Budd says:

    It does make one wonder how flight crews are vetted before hiring, and whether they’re getting enough rest between flights. As to mental breakdowns, we live in anxious times. The stresses of piloting a jet in the aging air transportation infrastructure, combined with worries about job downsizing and plain old everyday anxieties, would be enough to make me a little crazy. Throw in way too much media distraction, the state of the world in general, and who knows what kinds of personal issues the pilot may have been coping with, and the big wonder is that we don’t see more of these kinds of incidents.
    If gas prices weren’t so ree-deek-ulous, I’d stick to driving…

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