Midair Meltdown - Clayton Osbon

Was JetBlue Las Vegas Pilot’s meltdown really a Panic Attack?

Midair Meltdown – Clayton Osbon

This past Tuesday (March 27, 2012) a JetBlue flight 191 headed to Las Vegas was forced to make an emergency landing in Amarillo, Texas after the pilot starting behaving unruly and erratic.

According to his co-pilot, JetBlue pilot Clayton Osbon, a 49 year old professional pilot since 1989, began flipping switches in the cockpit in a strange way on that Tuesday flight and appeared “confused” according to what sources told ABC News.

Shortly after the plan left New York’s JFK airport he mentioned something about “being evaluated” to the plane’s first officer, although the officer was not sure what he was referring to.

According to the court affidavit “Osbon began talking about religion, but his statements were not coherent.” The first officer became concerned when Osbon said “things just don’t matter” and then yelled at the air traffic control over the radio to “be quiet.”

Osbon then turned off the radios and began to dim the flight monitor. The officer reported he became “really worried” after Osbon said that “We need to take a leap of faith..we’re not going to Vegas.” and then he began rambling about random numbers and the “sins in Las Vegas”

The astute co-pilot suggested they invite an off duty JetBlue captain who was onboard as a passenger into the cockpit, but instead Osbon abruptly left the cockpit.

In the cabin, the passengers reported that he grabbed a flight attendants hands and uttered something about “150 souls on board.” He then sprinted back to the galley and tried to get back into the cockpit, but the first officer had already changed the security code to lock him out.

His co-pilot was concerned for the flight’s safety and locked him out of the cockpit. After he was locked out, Osbon started yelling things about “We got Israel. We got Iraq. And we’re gonna get doomed. They’re going to take us down! Say the Lord’s Prayer.”

Mr. Osbon had to be restrained by the crew members and passengers so the plane could be diverted.

What The Passengers Experienced

Here’s a video showing what the passengers experienced. It was quite a terrifying experience for them.

Video of the JetBlue Pilot flip-out


and here’s a news report:

CBS News: JetBlue Passengers Say – Pilot Not Rational


What is a Panic Attack?

Panic Disorder is a serious medical condition that affects approximately one out of 75 people. Panic disorder usually appears during the early teens/early adulthood. The exact causes are unclear, although it does seem to be connected with major stressful life transitions – e.g. getting married, having a child, starting a new job. There is some evidence for a genetic predisposition.
According to the American Psychological Association, panic attacks are the primary symptom of panic disorder.

A panic attacks is a period of intense fear or apprehension that has a sudden onset and relatively brief duration.

Someone experiencing a panic attack typically feels:

  • racing heartbeats
  • paralyzing fear
  • lightheadedness
  • problems with breathing
  • hot flashes or chills
  • trembling
  • and feeling “pins and needles” in the fingers or toes.

Typically panic attacks begin abruptly, then reach a peak within 10 minutes, and gradually subside over the next few hours.

The APA also noted that people going through a panic attack are overcome with a fear that they are about to die or go crazy.

Was It Only A Panic Attack?

At this point, the authorities are not sure until further evaluation is completed. Even though he appears to have had a
panic attack, other news sources such as ABC news have speculated that the real reason may be more complex and that an
organic brain tumor, drugs, or a psychotic episode may be involved.
Further details will emerge over time, but for now, it’s a clear indication of the importance in treating panic attacks BEFORE they become a significant problem that impacts one’s mental and emotional functioning.

“As of now, he’s been taken off all active duties and responsibilities pending further investigation,” JetBlue spokeswoman Tamara Young told ABCNews.com today.

Following the incident, Osbon was placed under observation at a hospital in Texas.

In the meantime, the pilot has been charged with criminal charges for interfering with flight crew instruction – a charge punishable by up to 20 years in prison.


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  • Brian

    Reply Reply April 3, 2012

    I do not recall hearing about something like this before. It is so scary. Thanks to the co-pilot who took the charge promptly and kept Osbon out of the cockpit. If he had not reacted fast, god knows what would have happened.

  • Hazel

    Reply Reply April 4, 2012

    It is because of the co-pilot that the passengers were saved. God knows, what Osbon would have done. The passengers must be thanking the co-pilot from their heart for saving their lives.

  • Erwin

    Reply Reply April 4, 2012

    A lot of speculations are flying in the air about what led Osbon to behave such strangely. People will come out with different theories till they forget the news. But the passengers will never be able to forget the incident.

  • Samantha

    Reply Reply April 5, 2012

    Next time I board a flight, I will remember this incident. It had already started to haunt me. I think, no one will be able to forget this as it is so frightening and strange.

  • Robbie

    Reply Reply April 5, 2012

    Being an experienced pilot it is quite unusual that Osbon behaved in such a manner. Does it have to do anything with his personal life problems? Maybe he is overstressed at work. Only further investigation will reveal the truth.

  • Jeff

    Reply Reply April 5, 2012

    Pilots are overstressed. Their job demands them to be alert for a considerable amount of time. They handle a huge responsibility and are found to be overburdened also. Maybe Osbon reacted under work pressures or personal problems.

  • Kenneth

    Reply Reply April 5, 2012

    Osbon deserves to be treated fairly and his case should be investigated thoroughly. Sentencing him to jail is not the solution. We need to know what went wrong with him. He is a senior pilot with a good track record.

  • Jonny

    Reply Reply April 6, 2012

    It seems that Osbon did not do anything intentionally. He did not want to harm the passengers. Maybe he was under the influence of some drugs or mental disorder. We have to be patient to know what happened to him exactly.

  • John

    Reply Reply April 7, 2012

    I really feel for the passengers. I can imagine what they went through when Osbon came out of the cockpit and started behaving abnormally. It had been a tough time for everyone onboard.

  • Jackie

    Reply Reply April 7, 2012

    The co-pilot deserves to be awarded for keeping his cool and carrying his duty so well. It is because of him and the first officer that the passengers are still alive. Both of them have shown great courage and wisdom

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