The CEO of JetBlue said on Wednesday he personally knows the pilot whose erratic behavior led to a diverted flight and that there were no earlier signs of problems, although the airline will review its procedures after the incident.
A JetBlue flight bound for Las Vegas from New York had to make an emergency landing in Amarillo, Texas on Tuesday after what passengers described as chaos mid-flight when Captain Clayton Osbon was locked out of the cockpit.
Aviation experts say that such incidents are rare. John Cox, an aviation safety consultant and former airline pilot, told the Associated Press that incidents in which pilots become mentally incapacitated during a flight are "pretty rare." He said he could only recall two or three other examples in the more than 40 years he has been following commercial aviation.
JetBlue CEO Dave Barger described it as a medical situation that turned into a security one. He said he did not think anyone from the company has since talked to Osbon.
"I've known the captain personally for a long period of time and there's been no indication of this at all," Barger said, adding that the pilot was a "consummate professional."
Barger said, "We'll always take a look at procedures ... but I'm very confident about our procedures, the industry's procedures."
He credited the training of another pilot and other cabin crew staff in handling the situation on the flight which had 135 passengers.
Passengers described a chaotic mid-flight scene in which a man in a JetBlue uniform, apparently locked out of the cockpit, began banging on the door and demanding to be let inside.
Tony Antolino, a passenger on the flight who helped subdue the pilot, said the plastic restraints on board were flimsy and systematically failed. Passengers on the flight were rattled, and several had to restrain the pilot after his meltdown by sitting on him.
"They did not work, they failed," Antolino told NBC, speaking from Las Vegas. "We had to use seatbelt extenders, people's belts and physically our hands to try and restrain the guy."
Asked if he would review company procedures following the incident, Barger said: "Absolutely, but not just that, but also the entire event ... within JetBlue and also the industry."
The Federal Aviation Administration cited an "onboard medical emergency" as the reason for the diversion, and said preliminary information showed the co-pilot became concerned that the captain had "exhibited erratic behavior during the flight."
"The captain had exited the cockpit during the flight, after which the co-pilot locked the door," the statement said. "When the captain attempted to enter the locked cockpit,he was subdued by passengers."
The incident was the second one involving erratic behavior by a JetBlue crew member since August 2010, when a flight attendant, Steve Slater, bolted from a plane by deploying and sliding down the inflatable emergency chute following an altercation with a passenger.
John Cox, an aviation safety consultant and former airline pilot, told the Associated Press that incidents in which pilots become mentally incapacitated during a flight are "pretty rare." He said he could only recall two or three other examples in the more than 40 years he has been following commercial aviation.