JetBlue pilot who yelled during flight sues airline for $16M

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

NEW YORK (AP) — A JetBlue Airways pilot who scared passengers by yelling about Jesus and al-Qaida during a 2012 trip from New York to Las Vegas sued the airline for more than $16 million Friday, saying it jeopardized the flight by failing to recognize he was ill.

Clayton Osbon's lawsuit in Manhattan federal court was filed exactly three years after his March 27, 2012, flight, hours before the statute of limitations would have expired.

It came the same week European prosecutors said a Germanwings co-pilot crashed an Airbus A320 commercial flight into a mountainside in the French Alps, killing 150 people. That crash has drawn scrutiny to procedures in place to protect flights when pilots are disabled.

No one was seriously injured on Osbon's flight, which made an emergency landing in Amarillo, Texas, after the Richmond Hill, Georgia, resident was restrained after running through the cabin shouting irrationally.

The lawsuit said Osbon, 52, was a flight standards captain who primarily flew Airbus planes and helped JetBlue develop and maintain safety procedures before he suffered a seizure traced to the effects of a childhood traumatic head injury that damaged his brain.

The seizure "severely impaired his ability to perform basic activities, caused him to hallucinate, and caused extreme feelings of paranoia and religious fervor," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said JetBlue should have known something was wrong after Osbon missed a preflight meeting for the first time in a dozen years, failed to answer his cellphone and arrived disheveled and disoriented.

During pre-flight checks, Osbon was slow and efficient, requiring substantial assistance from the flight's first officer, and Osbon declared he was unfit to fly and relieved himself of flight duties after asking the first officer if he had missed multiple air traffic control calls and being told he had, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said that as Osbon's condition worsened, he "ran down the aisles screaming and ranting concerning imagined terrorism and the need for all on board on embrace religion."

Still, the lawsuit said, JetBlue allowed the flight to continue for three hours and "unnecessarily endangered the lives of Capt. Osbon, the crew and the 135 passengers."

The lawsuit said JetBlue maintained a culture meant to protect the careers of crew members, whether impaired by alcohol, drugs or other physical or mental flaws.

In 2012, three dozen passengers sued the airline, saying it was "grossly negligent" for letting Osbon fly. Originally charged criminally, Osbon was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He remains on unpaid medical leave from a job that once paid him more than $300,000 annually, though the lawsuit said he has not suffered seizures since taking prescribed medication.

In a statement Friday, JetBlue said: "While we can't discuss the specifics of what happened that day due to ongoing litigation, we stand behind the heroic actions of the crew, who followed well-established safety and security procedures both before and during the flight."


Associated Press Airlines Writer Scott Mayerowitz contributed to this report.