JetBlue pilot Clayton Osbon is now facing charges after a federal criminal complaint was filed against him Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement.
Osbon, 49, was removed from a New York to Las Vegas flight after the first officer diverted and made an emergency landing in Amarillo Tuesday morning. The airline removed the pilot from active duty Wednesday morning.
According to the affidavit, Osbon arrived late for the flight and missed the crew briefing. Then, as they were departing New York and climbing to their cruising altitude, Osbon said something to the first officer about being evaluated by someone before beginning to talk about the church and his need to focus. He then asked the first officer to take control of the aircraft and work the radios while he continued to incoherently talk about religion.
The affidavit went on to say that the first officer became concerned when Osbon said "things just don't matter" and then yelled over the radio at air traffic control operators while telling them to be quiet. He then shut off the radios, dimmed his monitors and admonished the first officer for attempting to talk on the radio. He then said, "we need to take a leap of faith" and "we're not going to Vegas" before giving, what the first officer described as, a sermon.
With a off-duty captain onboard the aircraft, the first officer suggested he come into the cockpit. Osbon abruptly left the cockpit, breaching protocol, and attempted to enter the occupied forward lavatory. The first officer then asked the off-duty captain to relieve Osbon and the pair locked the cockpit door.
When Osbon exited the bathroom, he spoke to the flight attendants and mentioned "150 souls on board," according to the DOJ statement, and walked to the rear of the aircraft. Along the way he stopped and asked a male passenger if he had a problem before he sprinted back to the front of the plane and tried to re-enter the cockpit.
The first officer then directed passengers to restrain Osbon as he ranted about Jesus, Sept. 11, Iraq, Iran and terrorists.
Upon landing in Amarillo, Osbon was removed from the aircraft and taken to Northwest Texas Healthcare System hospital in Amarillo for medical evaluation, where he remains.
If convicted, Osbon faces is 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 matter to a grand jury for indictment.
Osbon now faces charges of interfering with a flight crew. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christy L. Drake, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Amarillo, is in charge of the prosecution.
The ongoing investigation is being led by the FBI with the assistance of JetBlue, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Transportation Security Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Amarillo Police Department and the Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport Police Department.