Once locked out, Osbon began shouting about threats from al Qaeda, Iran, Iraq, and bombs aboard; he had to be subdued and strapped down by passengers, while the co-pilot took over and later landed the airliner. JetBlue is as mystified as anyone else about Osbon’s meltdown. “I’ve known the captain personally for a long period of time,” CEO Dave Barger told the “Today” show on March 28. “There [was] no indication of this at all in the past. Consummate professional.”
It’s exceptionally rare for a commercial pilot to simply lose it in flight, says John Cox, who flew for USAir for 25 years and is now president of Safety Operating Systems, an aviation safety consulting company in Washington, D.C. “I’ve been in aviation 42 years and I can’t come up with another case like this. This is an incapacitation event, and the leading cause of that is food poisoning…From a mental standpoint, it could be any number of things such as reaction to medication, a brain tumor, or a long list of things.”
Cox says the flight crew did everything right in dealing with an incapacitated, but ambulatory captain. Such cases are so rare, he says, that “you can’t write a book” about how to handle such an incident.