Area residents reacted with surprise upon hearing the news that Richmond Hill resident and JetBlue Airlines captain Clayton Osbon’s erratic behavior Tuesday forced an emergency landing of the plane he was piloting.
Osbon’s story made national headlines after he had to be restrained during a flight from New York to Las Vegas. He was hospitalized Tuesday after the plane made an emergency landing, and he now faces federal charges.
“It is sad to see that happen to someone,” local writer Christine Lucas said. “I was happy that the gentlemen who restrained him were not inclined to attack him verbally. They were professionals and spoke as such when describing what happened.”
Lucas met Osbon, 49, in 2011 when she interviewed him for an article about his life as a pilot for a regional magazine, Richmond Hill Reflections. Though she only met with him twice, the behavior she saw on television is not how she said she would characterize him.
“I can only comment on how he was on our two meetings,” Lucas said. “He was friendly (and) confident. He clearly loves flying.”
Osbon was restrained midflight by passengers Tuesday while manning JetBlue Airlines’ Flight 191 en route to Las Vegas after he reportedly began shouting about a bomb and threats from Iraq. An off-duty pilot helped the co-pilot land the plane safely in Amarillo, Texas, according to reports.
The airline later announced the incident was a “medical situation” involving the captain, Osbon, who had been hospitalized. Federal authorities have now charged him with interfering with a flight crew and he has been suspended from JetBlue pending review of the flight.
Under federal law, a conviction for interference with a flight crew or attendants can bring up to 20 years in prison. The offense is defined as assaulting or intimidating the crew, interfering with its duties or diminishing its ability to operate the plane.
Another resident who knows Osbon, Bryan County Commissioner Carter Infinger, said he lives down the street from the pilot. Infinger said he was surprised to learn of the events.
“I was shocked and concerned for him and his family,” Infinger said Tuesday. “You always want the best for everybody.”
Infinger said Osbon is a “really nice guy” who he occasionally sees at social gatherings and other events. He said he hasn’t known Osbon to have any issues and doesn’t know what may have caused him to behave the way he did midflight.
“We don’t know the whole story. We know what the news says, but you really don’t know exactly what happened,” Infinger said. “We won’t know for a while, but as far as I know, he is a good guy and a solid citizen in our community.
“It’s a sad situation that happened,” he said. “I’ve never known him to have any issues and I’m concerned for him and his family. I hope and wish them the best.”
Lucas, too, said she has no idea what may have caused the situation, but noted the public should consider all angles.
“People need to remember that various circumstances can cause people to act out of character,” she said. “Flip comments about him don’t offer much to the soup. He’s a man with friends and a family.”
In addition to releasing a statement about the situation, the airline also took to its blog, Blue Tales, to answer what it claims are the top 10 questions asked about the incident.
Questions about security issues, Osbon’s health and what could have happened if he had returned to the flight deck are addressed in the blog post at http://blog.jetblue.com/index.php/2012/03/28/flight-191-update.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.