By Russ Niles, Editor-in-Chief
The JetBlue captain whose mid-flight meltdown a few months ago resulted in crew members calling for help by passengers to restrain him has been found not guilty by reason of insanity of criminal charges related to the well-publicized incident. Clayton Osbon, a well-respected senior pilot with a clean record, began acting irrationally on a New York-to-Las Vegas flight last March 27 and was ultimately restrained by a group of mostly ex-law-enforcement professionals headed to a security conference in Sin City. After the nervous FO locked him out of the flight deck, Osbon ran the length of the aircraft ranting about terrorism and religion. The FO, with help from a commuting JetBlue pilot who happened to be on board, landed the aircraft uneventfully in Amarillo, Texas. Osbon has been in jail, and on the JetBlue payroll, ever since.
In Tuesday's court proceedings, U.S. District Court Judge Mary Lou Robinson ruled that Osbon suffered from a "severe mental disease or defect" at the time of the incident and sent him to a federal mental health facility for assessment until at least Aug. 6. If he's able to prove "by clear and convincing evidence" that he's not going to be a future danger to others he might be released. Otherwise, he'll be committed. JetBlue is standing by their captain, continuing his pay and helping his family. "We can confirm he is still employed, on inactive status, with JetBlue," spokeswoman Alison Croyle told media inquiries.