Passengers on diverted flight sue JetBlue, pilot who became erratic

Passengers on diverted flight sue JetBlue, pilot who became erratic

POSTED: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 12:00pm

UPDATED: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 12:04pm

A group of passengers who were aboard a March 27 JetBlue flight out of JFK Airport that was diverted because of erratic behavior by its pilot have filed suit against the airline and pilot.

The lawsuit, obtained by CNN, was filed Wednesday in New York State Supreme Court in Queens. It lists 10 plaintiffs and accuses JetBlue of being grossly negligent for allowing Capt. Clayton Osbon to fly, claiming the airline knew or should have known that he was unfit to fly an aircraft at the time of the flight.

The lawsuit alleges that Osbon caused significant distress to the passengers, specifically by yelling obscenities and things such as "Say your prayers," "We're all going down," "I'm going to show you Iraq and Iran right now" and "There's a bomb on board."

JetBlue Airlines does not offer comment on pending legal matters. Sharon Jones, spokesperson for the airline, did say that JetBlue was aware of the claim that was filed, but has not reviewed the complaint.

On April 4, Osbon was ordered by U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. He is scheduled to attend a mental competency hearing Friday morning at the U.S. District Court in Amarillo, Texas, where the flight was eventually diverted.

According to court documents filed April 18 by his attorney, Dean Roper, Osbon plans on using an insanity defense. Roper did not immediately return a call for comment .

The co-pilot of the flight became concerned about Osbon's bizarre behavior early in the trip from New York to Las Vegas, according to an FBI affidavit issued shortly after the flight.

As the Airbus A320 was climbing out of New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Osbon talked about his church and needing to "focus," the affidavit says. He then told the co-pilot to take the controls and to work the radio, and began talking about religion, making statements that were incoherent, it says.

The concerned co-pilot suggested they invite an off-duty JetBlue captain into the cockpit. Instead, Osbon "abruptly left the cockpit to go to the forward lavatory," the affidavit says.

The co-pilot used the opportunity to get the off-duty captain into the cockpit and change the combination to the door lock.

When Osbon tried to enter his code into the cockpit door, the co-pilot announced over the public address system an order to restrain Osbon. Several passengers wrestled Osbon to the floor and restrained him.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday does not specify the amount of damages the plaintiffs seek.

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