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U.S. Attorney’s Office Files Charges Against JetBlue Pilot Clayton Osbon

Joe Raedle, Getty Images

The JetBlue pilot that forced a landing in Amarillo has been charged by federal prosecutors.

The charges were filed Wednesday against 49-year-old pilot Clayton Frederick Osbon for interference with a flight crew.

On Tuesday, March 27th, Osbon reportedly arrived late for the flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport to Las Vegas, Nevada, and began talking to the first officer about being evaluated by someone. He then apparently began talking about his church, the need to “focus” and religion in a fashion deemed incoherent by the first officer.

Osbon then is said to have began making statements such as “things just don’t matter.” He then reportedly yelled over the radio to air traffic control and told them to be quiet, before turning the radios off in the aircraft, dimming the monitors, and admonishing the first officer for talking on the radio.

According to the release from the U.S. Attorney’s office, Osbon then told the first officer “we need to take a leap of faith,” and then told him that they were not going to Las Vegas, before delivering what was described as a sermon. The first officer suggested bringing the off-duty JetBlue pilot onboard into the cockpit, but Osbon left to go to the lavatory, ignoring the usual protocol for leaving the cockpit.

The flight crew became alarmed when Osbon is believed to have become aggressive and began banging on the occupied lavatory door. Once Osbon was inside, the first officer requested that the off-duty pilot come into the cockpit to finish the flight.

Upon exiting the lavatory, Osbon reportedly began talking about the “150 souls on board” to flight attendants. He walked to the back of the aircraft, asked a male passenger if he had a problem, then sprinted back to the forward galley and attempted to reenter the cockpit.

The first officer asked that Osbon be restrained, and he was taken down by several passengers, while he continued yelling about Jesus, September 11th, Iraq, Iran, and terrorists. The first officer declared an emergency and diverted the aircraft to Amarillo.

Osbon was taken to a facility in Amarillo for medical evaluation, where he currently remains. Prior to the charges, JetBlue took Osbon off active duty during a review of the incident, classifying it as a “medical situation.”

Conviction of interference with a flight crew carries a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The U.S. Attorney’s office has 30 days to present the charges to a grand jury for indictment.

JetBlue has posted a response to Tuesday’s incident here.

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