Unruly JetBlue pilot charged with interference with flight

SAN ANTONIO Fri Apr 13, 2012 6:21am EDT

A JetBlue Airways plane awaits take off while at LaGuardia Airport in New York April 5, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

A JetBlue Airways plane awaits take off while at LaGuardia Airport in New York April 5, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - A grand jury indicted a JetBlue pilot and charged him with interference with a flight crew following a mid-air meltdown that included screaming and pounding on the cockpit door, forcing a transcontinental flight to make an emergency landing in Texas last month, court documents show.

Pilot Clayton Osbon "moved through the aircraft and was disruptive and had to be subdued and forcibly restrained from re-entering the cockpit" during the flight from New York to Las Vegas, the federal indictment said.

The unusual indictment of an airline pilot was filed on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Amarillo, Texas. The JetBlue flight made an emergency landing in Amarillo on March 27 and Osbon, 49, was taken into custody at the airport.

Osbon is undergoing a court-ordered psychiatric examination to determine whether he can stand trial and his "sanity or lack thereof" at the time of the incident, according to court documents.

The FBI said Osbon began saying "things just don't matter" while he was at the controls of the Airbus A320 about halfway into the five-hour flight, and that he told the flight's first officer, "We're not going to Vegas."

After the pilot suddenly left the cockpit and started running up and down in the aisle, banging on a restroom door, and attempted to force his way back into the locked cockpit, several passengers retrained him until the plane landed, court documents say.

The FBI said that while he was being restrained, Osbon yelled "pray now for Jesus Christ," started yelling about Iraq, Iran, and terrorists, and at one point shouted toward the cockpit, "guys, push it to full throttle!"

A detention hearing that had been set for earlier this week to determine whether Osbon should be released on bond was postponed while his psychiatric exam continued.

Osbon's attorney, E. Dean Roper of Amarillo, was not in the office and could not comment, according to the person answering the phone at the office on Thursday.

The investigation into the incident continues, according to federal prosecutors.

(Additional reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis and Ioanna Makris Editing by Corrie MacLaggan, Cynthia Johnston and Vicki Allen McCune.)

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