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.
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
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.
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
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."