Passengers Sue JetBlue, Pilot After Meltdown

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Published: June 14, 2012

A group of passengers from a JetBlue flight that was forced to make an emergency landing in March after the pilot suffered a midair meltdown filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against both the airline and the pilot, according to court papers.

The suit, filed by 10 passengers of JetBlue flight 191, accuses the airline of failing to properly supervise the pilot, Clayton Osbon.

JetBlue “was grossly negligent in retaining defendant Osbon, whom JetBlue knew or should have known was unfit to be entrusted with the aircraft as pilot,” the court papers said.

The suit, which was filed in New York State Supreme Court, seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Osbon, 49, who lives near Savannah, Georgia, has been charged by federal authorities with interfering in the operations of a flight crew on the March 27 flight from New York to Las Vegas, which was forced to land in Amarillo, Texas.

Osbon’s lawyer, Dean Roper of Amarillo, has said his client will plead insanity.

A federal indictment against Osbon described a harrowing flight during which Osbon had to be subdued and forcibly restrained.

The FBI says that while he was at the controls of the Airbus A320 about halfway into the five-hour flight, Osbon said, “Things just don’t matter,” and told the flight’s first officer, “We’re not going to Vegas.”

The pilot suddenly left the cockpit and started running up and down the aisle, banging on a toilet door, and attempted to force his way back into the cockpit, which by then had been locked by the co-pilot, First Officer Jason Dowd.

Several passengers restrained Osbon while Dowd safely landed the plane.

The FBI says that while he was being restrained, Osbon yelled, “Pray now for Jesus Christ,” started yelling about Iraq, Iran and terrorists, and shouted at one point toward the cockpit: “Guys, push it to full throttle!”

JetBlue has not yet reviewed the suit and has a policy against commenting on pending litigation, company spokeswoman Alison Croyle said.

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