JetBlue flight diverted after captain's 'erratic' behavior
By the CNN Wire Staff - Updated 2:37 AM EDT, Wed March 28, 2012
(CNN) -- A JetBlue flight bound for Las Vegas made an emergency landing in Texas on Tuesday after the captain acted strangely, was locked out of the cockpit by his co-pilot and was wrestled to the ground by passengers, witnesses and authorities said.
The plane's co-pilot, concerned by the "erratic" behavior, locked the door behind the captain when he left the cockpit during the flight, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Passengers described to CNN what happened next.
"The pilot ran to the cockpit door, began banging on it and said something to the effect of, 'We've gotta pull the throttle back. We've gotta get this plane down,'" said Laurie Dhue.
"At that point, the two flight attendants tried to subdue him, and then seemingly out of nowhere, about six or seven large guys stormed to the front of the plane and wrestled the captain of the plane down to the ground and had him subdued in a matter of moments. It was really like something out of a movie," she said.
Amateur video of the incident showed a commotion as several men were moving in the aisle. A voice, purportedly that of the pilot, can be heard.
"Oh my God. I'm so distraught!" he shouts. The voice mentions Israel and Iraq.
In another video, passengers appeared to be standing over something, or someone, presumably the subdued pilot.
Paul Babakitis, another passenger and a retired New York police officer, said he was one of the men who helped wrestle the captain to the ground.
"I felt if he got in the cockpit, he was going to try to take that plane down, and not for a safe landing," he said.
Law enforcement met the aircraft, cuffed the pilot and took him off the plane, Babakitis said. Video showed someone being carried off the plane in a sort of chair.
"I'm not foreign to situations like this, but I don't expect them at 30,000 feet," he said.
Babakitis and some other passengers reported hearing the captain say the word "bomb" at one point. However, passenger Jason Levin said he did not hear him say that.
Levin was sitting in the front row of the plane, full of people on their way to a security conference, when the pilot came out of the cockpit.
"It just seemed like something triggered him to go off the wall. He would be calm one minute and then just all of sudden turn," he said. "If it was going to happen, it happened at the right time and the right place."
Passenger Tony Antolino hailed the co-pilot as a hero.
"The co-pilot of the flight, he really -- I think -- is the hero here because he had the sense to recognize that something was going horribly wrong, and he was able to persuade the pilot out of the cockpit," he told CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight."
Jet Blue Flight 191 left New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport at 7:28 a.m.
"At roughly 10 a.m. CT/11 a.m. ET, the pilot in command elected to divert to Amarillo, Texas, for a medical situation involving the captain. Another captain, traveling off duty, entered the flight deck prior to landing at Amarillo and took over the duties of the ill crew member once on the ground," JetBlue said.
The crew member was taken off the plane and transported to a medical facility, it added.
FBI Special Agent Lydia Maese said the FBI responded to the incident and is coordinating with Amarillo and airport police, the FAA and the Transportation Safety Administration. She declined further comment, saying an investigation is pending.
Everything considered, passenger Antolino said he felt thankful. "This could have had a horrific outcome."
This article talks about a crisis that occurred on a JetBlue flight that took off from New York and was bound for Las Vegas on Tuesday, March 27th 2012. Midway through the flight, the captain of the plane started behaving erratically which alarmed the co-pilot. The co-pilot convinced the Captain to step out of the cockpit and then locked him out of it. This upset the Captain even more and he allegedly started banging on the cockpit door at which point a few passengers wrestled him to the ground and subdued him. The plane had to make an emergency landing In Texas and an off duty pilot that was on the plane was able to take over the Captain’s responsibility and land the plane.
For the people on the plane at the time, this was definitely a crisis. This is a risk for JetBlue and would’ve been a crisis had someone been injured because of the Captain’s erratic behaviour. This is an issue for the employees of JetBlue and their union if they have one as they need to investigate whether this was caused by the captain being overstressed or overworked. If this is the case, then this is also an issue for JetBlue management which needs to be resolved before a situation like this happens again in which the consequences could be much worse.The co-pilot handled the crisis situation very well. He recognized that the Captain was behaving abnormally and convinced him to step out of the cockpit. If he had not done this, the Captain could have taken control of the plane and crashed it if he wasn’t in the right mind. The passengers and flight attendants also handled the crisis well when they were able to subdue the captain after his outburst. JetBlue has responded to this crisis intelligently as it has only given the public the facts and has not speculated on the medical or mental issue that the pilot had. They only said that the captain was ill and that they would not comment further until they finished their investigation of the matter.
The airline industry need to monitor this situation and the results of the investigation so that they can develop crisis scenarios and conduct crisis simulations with staff involving something like this happening on one of their flights.
Since there are videos available on YouTube and other social media of the situation occurring, JetBlue should engage in crisis communication with the pubic using this same forum so that they can “be where the action is”.JetBlue also needs to involve local regulators such as the FBI who responded to the incident and with the Amarillo, Texas police, airport police, the FAA and the Transportation Safety Administration in developing crisis management plans or handling situations such as this. This being the aviation industry, they already have a lot of crisis management tools in place so they would need to find out what already exists and if all they need to do is investigate this particular incident. It is possible that the co-pilot recognizing the Captain’s erratic behaviour and getting him to leave the cockpit was part of an already developed crisis scenario.
Personally, I am just thankful that this crisis did not become a bigger crisis had the plane crashed because of the erratic behaviour of the pilot. I will wait for the results of the investigation before making comments or giving advice to those involved. I would just remind JetBlue and the airline industry in general to follow their own crisis management systems to prevent crises for happening such as limiting the hours of flight time for pilots.