Feds Charge JetBlue Pilot
Clayton Osbon could get up to 20 years for in-flight meltdown
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2012 2:00 AM CDT
Emergency workers tend to a JetBlue captain Clayton Osbon after the flight was diverted to Amarillo.    (AP Photo/Steve Douglas)

(Newser) – The JetBlue pilot who had a mid-flight mental breakdown has been charged with interfering with a flight, and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Clayton Osbon—who remains in a guarded facility in a Texas hospital—has been suspended by the airline while the FBI and aviation authorities investigate the bizarre incident, in which the 49-year-old pilot had to be subdued by passengers. Officials say they can't remember any similar charges against a commercial pilot in recent years, Reuters notes.

The trouble began even before the flight took off, according to an affidavit filed by an FBI agent, when Osbon arrived late and then "began talking about religion, but his statements were not coherent." The Federal Aviation Administration requires pilots Osbon's age to have their psychological condition assessed for a medical certificate that must be renewed every six months. But some say the agency's strict conditions cause pilots to cover up their problems. "A guy has worked his whole career toward what he's gotten, and he's dealing with issues, what does he do?" one pilot asks CNN. "If he says, 'Hey, I'm depressed,' then the FAA pulls his medical certificates, and there goes his career."