There are more details on what went down yesterday on a JetBlue flight from New York to Las Vegas, when the plane’s captain had a bit of a meltdown, labeled a “medical emergency” by the FAA and a “panic attack” by law enforcement. He’s been suspended, says the airline.
“As of now, he’s been taken off all active duties and responsibilities pending further investigation,” JetBlue spokeswoman Tamara Young told ABCNews.com. The plane landed in Amarillo, Texas and was immediately met by law enforcement. The captain was taken to a medical facility upon landing, and subsequently handed over to the FBI.
ABC News follows up with a more comprehensive description of the timeline of events than what was available yesterday, complete with video where you can hear the captain yelling and ranting as passengers attempt to subdue him.
The captain, a commercial pilot since 1989, wasn’t at the controls but according to sources, “began acting erratically, flipping switches in the cockpit and appearing confused,” in the cockpit. His co-pilot reportedly then tricked him into going into the passenger compartment, and locked the door and changed the code behind him. That didn’t go over so well with the captain.
“The captain of the plane just went berserk,” said one passenger. “He came out of the other end of the plane … came running back to the cockpit and he was shouting out these numbers … 500 something. He started banging on the cockpit door.”
While the captain was acting odd in the cabin, an off-duty pilot was able to get into the cockpit to help land the plane.
One passenger sitting in the second row happened to be a former corrections officer, and asked flight attendants how he could help when the captain rushed toward an occupied bathroom, and then started toward the emergency exit.
The passenger asked the captain what was going on, and he replied, “You’d better start praying right now,” and was shouting about Al Qaeda, a bomb, and threatening that the plane is going down.
“I was actually the one that took him down. I noticed he was very erratic,” said the passenger. “He was pinned against the door. I was afraid he was going to knock down the door. I was able to put a choke hold on him. I was able to get him weak from cutting his wind pipe.
“When he buckled, I realized I had him where I need him. So I put a little more pressure, and that’s when he almost passed out. So I threw him to the floor. That’s when the team came in and started helping me … I just didn’t want him opening up that door. I knew if he got in there, we wouldn’t be sitting here now.”
He and other passengers took off their belts to tie the captain’s legs, as he’d broken through plastic cuffs, and sat on him until landing.
Again, there have been a few recent incidents involving either a member of the flight crew or, as we reported earlier today, a passenger experiencing wild outbursts on planes. Let’s hope that’s done with.
JetBlue Pilot Suspended Following Midair Breakdown [ABCNews.com]