Pilot Who Had In-Flight Mental Breakdown Sues B6

Open Jaw

In a week when the mental health of airline pilots is front and centre, a pilot who experienced an in-flight mental breakdown in 2012 has launched a $16 million lawsuit against his former employer JetBlue.

In the incident, a JetBlue flight from New York to Las Vegas was forced to make an emergency landing in Amarillo, Texas after the pilot ran through the cabin, ranting about Jesus and al-Qaida.

Clayton Osbon is suing the airline for not noticing the warning signs that led to the incident, according to the Associated Press.

When in good health, Osbon was a flight standards captain who usually flew Airbus planes and was a safety procedure development specialist. According to the lawsuit, his health struggles began with a traumatic childhood brain injury that led to seizures. These seizures "severely impaired his ability to perform basic activities, caused him to hallucinate, and caused extreme feelings of paranoia and religious fervor."

On the day of the incident, the lawsuit reported, JetBlue should have known something was amiss after Osbon missed his first preflight meeting in 12 years, didn’t answer his cellphone, and arrived disorganized and disoriented.

During pre-flight checks, considerable assistance was required from his first officer, and after Osbon found out he had missed multiple air traffic control calls, he relieved himself of duty. His condition worsening, Osbon "ran down the aisles screaming and ranting concerning imagined terrorism and the need for all on board on embrace religion."

But, according to the suit, the flight was allowed to continue for three hours and "unnecessarily endangered the lives of Capt. Osbon, the crew and the 135 passengers."

In the bigger picture, the lawsuit accuses JetBlue of protecting the careers of crew members, even if impaired by alcohol, drugs or other physical or mental flaws.

Following the incident, 36 passengers sued JetBlue, calling the carrier "grossly negligent" for letting Osbon in the cockpit. Osbon was found not guilty by reason of insanity when charged criminally, and remains on unpaid medical leave.

JetBlue issued a statement Friday that said: "While we can't discuss the specifics of what happened that day due to ongoing litigation, we stand behind the heroic actions of the crew, who followed well-established safety and security procedures both before and during the flight."

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