JetBlue captain's unraveling baffles friends - KSWO, Lawton, OK- Wichita Falls, TX: News, Weather, Sports. ABC, 24/7, Telemundo -

JetBlue captain's unraveling baffles friends

A home owned by JetBlue captain Clayton Osbon is seen in Richmond Hill, Ga. on Wednesday, March 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Lewis Levine) A home owned by JetBlue captain Clayton Osbon is seen in Richmond Hill, Ga. on Wednesday, March 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Lewis Levine)

By PAUL J. WEBER and RUSS BYNUM, Associated Press

RICHMOND HILL, Ga. (AP) — No one recalls JetBlue Airways captain Clayton Osbon coming unhinged before. Not the airline that let him fly for 12 years, the neighbors in his secluded waterfront community or the friends he tried selling weight-loss shakes to on the side.

Now federal prosecutors have charged Osbon following his bizarre unraveling aboard Flight 191 to Las Vegas, describing in court records a midair breakdown they say began with cockpit ramblings about religion and ended with passengers wrestling him to the cabin floor.

Witness accounts of Osbon telling his co-pilot "things just don't matter" and sprinting down the center aisle — yelling jumbled remarks about Sept. 11 and Iran — baffled longtime friends and fellow pilots who said they couldn't remember previous health or mental problems.

Osbon, 49, was instead described as an affable aviator who took his private plane for joyrides in his spare time, shied from talking politics and hosted Super Bowl parties. His father was also a pilot who died in a 1995 plane crash while on a sunken treasure hunt, according to a Wisconsin newspaper in the town where his family lived.

"I can't say whether it's shock or disbelief," said Justin Ates, a corporate jet pilot and friend who also lives in Richmond Hill. "It's hard to describe what you feel when you see something that's completely 100 percent out of character."

Osbon is charged with interfering with a flight crew following his bizarre outburst Tuesday on the flight that began in New York and was diverted to Amarillo, Texas. He was still being held at a hospital there Wednesday and being medically evaluated.

Under federal law, a conviction for interference with a flight crew or attendants can bring up to 20 years in prison. The offense is defined as assaulting or intimidating the crew, interfering with its duties or diminishing its ability to operate the plane.

The plane's co-pilot, who made the emergency landing after Osbon became unruly, was being interviewed by federal authorities in New York, his mother-in-law said. Ruth Ann Kostal told The Associated Press on Thursday that she wasn't surprised her son-in-law Jason Dowd had acted cool under pressure but he doesn't want to be considered a hero.

"I'm glad for those people he was the co-pilot that day," Kostal said.

A pilot with JetBlue since 2000, Osbon acted oddly and became increasingly erratic on the flight, worrying his fellow crew members so much that they locked him out of cockpit after he abruptly left for the cabin, according to a federal affidavit. He then started yelling about Jesus, al-Qaida and a possible bomb on board, forcing passengers to tackle him and tie him up with seat belt extenders for about 20 minutes until the planed landed.

"The (first officer) became really worried when Osbon said 'we need to take a leap of faith,'" according to the sworn affidavit given by an FBI agent John Whitworth. "Osbon started trying to correlate completely unrelated numbers like different radio frequencies, and he talked about sins in Las Vegas."

Investigators said they were told that Osbon scolded air traffic controllers to quiet down, then turned off the radios altogether, and dimmed the monitors in the cockpit. He allegedly said aloud that "things just don't matter" and encouraged his co-pilot that they take a leap of faith.

"We're not going to Vegas," Osbon told his co-pilot in midflight, according to the affidavit.

Osbon, described by neighbors as tall and muscular, "aggressively" grabbed the hands of a flight attendant who confronted him and later dashed down the cabin while being chased. Passengers wrestled Osbon to the ground, and one female flight attendant's ribs were bruised during the struggle. No one on board was seriously hurt.

JetBlue spokeswoman Allison Steinberg said Osbon had been suspended pending a review of the flight. JetBlue CEO and President Dave Barger told NBC's "Today" show that Osbon is a "consummate professional" whom he has "personally known" for years. He said nothing in the captain's record indicates he would be a risk on a flight.

In Richmond Hill, a bedroom community on the Georgia coast just south of Savannah, next-door neighbor Bud Lawyer said he's having a hard time believing the man on the news is his good friend.

Osbon went to church but seldom talked about it and never seemed overly zealous, Lawyer said. And while the friends would occasionally chat about events in the Middle East, their talk never went beyond casual conversation about the events in the news, he said.

"He wouldn't intentionally hurt anyone," Lawyer said. "He's a kind-hearted, generous, loving teddy bear. It's totally out of character for this to happen to him."

Another longtime friend, Bill Curley, said Osbon is a Christian who has become "increasingly" religious but wasn't fanatical.

Osbon was also a direct marketer for health shakes sold by Visalus Sciences, a marketing company based in Troy, Mich. Ashley Guerra, a fellow Visalus marketer in Georgia, said she saw Osbon just last weekend and that he appeared friendly and helpful as usual.

In an interview last year with the local magazine Richmond Hill Reflections, Osbon said he first got in the cockpit when he was 6 or 7 and had ambitions of becoming a motivational speaker. His father and another man died after the engines in their plane failed over Daytona Beach while en route to look for treasure in Fort Lauderdale, according to 1995 story in the Washington Island Observer, a newspaper in the small Wisconsin community where Osbon's parents had a home.

Osbon's LinkedIn profile states that he received a degree in aeronautical physics from Hawthorne College and a physics degree from Carnegie Mellon University. However, Carnegie Mellon spokeswoman Teresa Thomas said Osbon attended the school for three years but never obtain his degree.

Bynum reported from Richmond Hill, Ga., and Weber from San Antonio. Associated Press writers John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio; Danny Robbins in Dallas; Samantha Bomkamp in New York; Betsy Blaney in Lubbock, Texas; Kate Brumbeck in Richmond Hill; Todd Richmond in Madison, Wis.; and Oskar Garcia in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

  • Today's Local News HeadlinesToday's Local NewsMore>>

  • Wednesday's Weather: High temps in the upper 70s to mid 80s

    Wednesday's Weather: High temps in the upper 70s to mid 80s

    Wednesday, May 24 2017 6:40 AM EDT2017-05-24 10:40:37 GMT

    Weather Outlook for Wednesday, May 24th

    Weather Outlook for Wednesday, May 24th

  • City council appoints new members to LGC

    City council appoints new members to LGC

    Tuesday, May 23 2017 11:26 PM EDT2017-05-24 03:26:42 GMT
    Eddy Sauer and Howard Smith will serve as voting members on the LGC board / Source: KFDAEddy Sauer and Howard Smith will serve as voting members on the LGC board / Source: KFDA
    The group tasked with building the MPEV, Embassy Suites Hotel and downtown parking garage now has two new members who are ready to work on those major downtown Amarillo projects. Before Tuesday evening, three of the seven voting spots on the Local Government Corporation (LGC) board were empty. The group barely had enough people to meet a quorum. The first request made by the new city council last week was to fill the two council member spots on the board as soon as possible. Counc...
    The group tasked with building the MPEV, Embassy Suites Hotel and downtown parking garage now has two new members who are ready to work on those major downtown Amarillo projects. Before Tuesday evening, three of the seven voting spots on the Local Government Corporation (LGC) board were empty. The group barely had enough people to meet a quorum. The first request made by the new city council last week was to fill the two council member spots on the board as soon as possible. Counc...
  • Abandoned at Birth

    Abandoned at Birth

    Tuesday, May 23 2017 11:21 PM EDT2017-05-24 03:21:57 GMT

    A baby left in a dumpster in the first hours of his life has recovered and is getting ready to celebrate his third birthday. 

    A baby left in a dumpster in the first hours of his life has recovered and is getting ready to celebrate his third birthday. 

Powered by Frankly