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Pilot’s Plane Panic! In-Flight Freak Out Worries Passengers

An apparent panic attack by a JetBlue pilot, identified as 49-year-old Clayton Osbon (a commercial pilot since 1989), terrified some passengers Tuesday on a flight from New York to Las Vegas.

Flight 191 departed about half an hour late from JFK, carrying 135 passengers and six crew members (including one off-duty captain). All was apparently fine until around 10:00 a.m. CT, when, according to a statement provided to SmarterTravel by JetBlue, “The pilot in command elected to divert to Amarillo, Texas, for a medical situation involving the captain. Another captain, traveling off duty, entered the flight deck prior to landing at Amarillo and took over the duties of the ill crew member. The aircraft arrived in Amarillo at 10:11 a.m. CT, and the crew member was removed from the aircraft and taken to a local medical facility.”

So what really went down onboard that plane? ABC News quotes sources as saying that Osbon was in the cockpit but not at the controls when he “began acting erratically, flipping switches in the cockpit and appearing confused.” The co-pilot allegedly got Osbon out of the cockpit by asking him to check on something in the passenger compartment, and then locked Osbon out and changed the security code.

The Amarillo Globe News reports that the pilot went in the bathroom and then emerged from the bathroom yelling, “Iraq, al-Qaeda, terrorism, we’re all going down,” and began pounding on the cockpit door, at which point a former prison security guard on the plane choked the pilot, and a number of passengers helped to pin the pilot to the ground. After the pilot reportedly broke through zip ties binding his wrists, passengers used belts to restrain him.

Auto blog spoke with a passenger who said that the pilot was screaming, “Pray to God with me!” and “Iran, Iraq!” A third passenger told CBS News that the captain “looked like he was having a panic attack” and was yelling, “I need the code, gimme the code, I need to get in there!” while trying to get back in the cockpit. You can see grainy cell phone video from inside the flight, as well as a photo of a man being taken off the plane in a stretcher, on CBS News as well.

A bit of humor in this scary situation: The plane was carrying a number of passengers who were headed to a security convention in Las Vegas.

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