JetBlue Plane Makes Emergency Landing In Amarillo After Captain Disrupts Flight

jetblue JetBlue Plane Makes Emergency Landing In Amarillo After Captain Disrupts Flight

Emergency workers stand around the pilot of a JetBlue plane who was removed from his flight due to a medical issue. (Photo credit Steve Miller/The Reporter's Edge)

UPDATED @3:30 p.m. 3/27/2012 with a statement from the FAA.

AMARILLO (CBSDFW.COM) — A JetBlue plane headed from New York to Las Vegas made an unscheduled landing in Amarillo Tuesday after the captain started acting erratically.

JetBlue flight 191 landed in Amarillo at 10 Tuesday morning.

A passenger on the plane tells CBS News that about two hours into the flight, one of the co-pilots left the cockpit to go to the restroom.

A federal government official tells CBS the captain became incoherent, which caused the co-pilot to become concerned. According to the official, the co-pilot convinced the captain to leave the cockpit and then locked him out.

While he was gone, another JetBlue pilot who was traveling on the plane entered the cockpit and took over the other man’s duties.

The captain exhibited odd behavior, randomly striking up conversations with passengers on his way back to the cockpit.

When he realized he was locked out, a passenger says the pilot began screaming “let me in” and acting erratically.

One witness says he started running up and down the aisle screaming.

A flight attendant quickly got on the intercom, saying, “restrain him,” according to passengers.

Several passengers then tackled him to the floor, and they kept him pinned until the plane landed in Amarillo.

One passenger said, “He picked the wrong plane.  Huge guys just tackled him. The response was Olympics kind of stuff.”

This YouTube video was allegedly taken by a passenger on the flight:

When the plane landed, witnesses say officers removed the tackled pilot.  The airplane is still on the ground in Amarillo and the passengers are still on board.

The jet is an Airbus A320, which holds about 150 passengers.

Reporting from the Amarillo airport, CBS reporter Angelina Perez says,“We’ve been told from the eyewitness that they actually made an arrest. From what we see at the scene right now there are a bunch of cop cars.”

On its website, JetBlue says the plane landed in Amarillo due to “a medical situation involving the Captain.”  The airline says the pilot was taken to a local hospital.

JetBlue says it sent another airplane and crew to Amarillo to take the stranded passengers to Las Vegas.

The FBI office in Dallas is investigating the incident.  But a federal government source tells CBS News it is being treated as a medical incident and not an attempted act of terrorism.

Denny Kelly is a retired airline pilot and now an aviation safety consultant.  He says, “this is a major, major deal.”

He believes the co-pilot should be called a hero.

“Yes, he was, absolutely, he was,” he said. “I’d like to know psychologically how he got him out of the cockpit.”

The Federal Aviation Administration requires all pilots older than 40 to renew their first class medical certificate every six months. Pilots who are under 40 must do so every year. They must pass a physical, which includes a psychological assessment and must disclose all medical conditions and medications they take.

Late Tuesday afternoon, CBSDFW received this statement from the FAA:

This morning, at approximately 9:53 a.m. Central Time, a Jet Blue flight en route to Las Vegas from New York JFK International Airport was diverted to Amarillo Rick Husband International Airport for an onboard medical emergency.

Preliminary information indicates that after landing, it was learned that the co-pilot became concerned that the captain exhibited erratic behavior during the flight.  The captain had exited the cockpit during the flight, after which the co-pilot locked the door. When the captain attempted to enter the locked cockpit, he was subdued by passengers.  After the flight landed safely, local law enforcement secured the pilot without incident, and he was transported by ambulance for medical evaluation.

The aircraft was towed to the terminal building and the passengers were safely deplaned from the aircraft. Passengers are currently awaiting continuation of their travel to Las Vegas.

The FBI, FAA, TSA and local law enforcement are coordinating on this incident.”

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  • Esteban

    “Medical Condition”. Right. Try drug abuse.

    • Jay Cee


  • FromOnline

    “…one of the copilots left to go to the restroom….”

    Please report things correctly; please. They are not both referred to as copilots. While the term copilot sounds like both pilots are equal in rank, they’re not.
    There’s a Captain, who’s THE pilot and sits on the left, and then there’s a First Officer, who is referred to as the CO-pilot and sits on the right. Why is the media so aviation-stupid?

  • TheNiteNurse

    Sometimes a person who later gets diagnosed with a stroke or brain bleed can act like this. Everyone always thinks it’s a drug problem but it sounds like the poor fellow a some terrible medical event. He also could have a brain tumor. So compassion please!

    • LynnA

      Thank you Nite Nurse for bringing what may have happened to this poor man to the attention of the idiots that assumed metal breakdown or drug abuse right off the bat!

      Let’s just see if CBS or any other news feed can exercise some RESTRAINT and ETHICS and keep themselves from displaying the same bad taste as divulging the name or place of residence of the flight crew member that had this happen to him in a very public manner, like they did when that poor flight attendant had her medical emergency in Dallas last month.

      Apparently, most people just refuse to realize that these flight crew members are people too and are operating under massive amounts of stress and responsibility and events like this can happen to anyone at anytime, even in their own work place!

      Never judge someone because you DON’T know the whole story and it’s none of anyone’s business what happened to this poor man emotionally or physiologically and his right to his medical privacy should have been protected at all costs by the passengers, the media and JetBlue.

      Shame on those who make events like this fodder for prime time “entertainment” by using their cell phone cameras for purposes of turning the videos over to the news media only to give these idiots the ability to make assumptions about people they don’t even KNOW!

      Shame on the media for using words like “flips out” leaving the public with the impression that this gentleman had a mental breakdown when in reality it could have been a serious physical problem, such as you pointed out.

      • Kat

        Mental breakdowns are just as serious as ‘physical problems’ – I agree with so much of your comment… until that point. Your word choice perpetuates the bogus belief that emotional duress and breakdowns ‘don’t count’ as a legitimate medical issue. To those experiencing them, they are equally real.

    • Chi-twn Girl

      Thank you for the above comment.

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  • Lynda

    It doesn’t actually matter if he had a mental or a physical ailment. “Flip out” is not a medical term. Either way people need to stop over reacting and thinking the whole world is trying to take a plan down. Unfortunately bad stuff happens and many times to good people. I hope this pilot is going to be okay.

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  • rikkimc

    What happened to the Federal Air Marshals who are supposed to be on every flight, plainclothes, sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security?

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