FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – A JetBlue captain’s alleged meltdown three-and-a-half hours into a flight from New York to Las Vegas brings to mind the March 9 breakdown of an American Airlines flight attendant at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
Kevin Ritch, of Coppell, was onboard that American Airlines flight, sitting in first class –– seat E3, he remembers.
He noticed the flight attendant immediately.
“A little bit overbearing. Actually just seemed to be in a bad mood, having a bad day,” he said of the attendant. “So, I looked at the guy next to me and said, ‘This is going to be a long flight.”
Ritch said he knew something else was amiss when she started talking on the public address system.
“She was kind of confusing sentences,” he said.
Ritch said she meant to pick up the line to the pilot.
“She was trying to get the pilot to go back to the gate so they would do the safety check all over again and she could pray before she shut the door,” he said.
Though she was on the wrong line, she became frustrated when the pilots did not answer her.
“She said, ‘Fine guys. If the plane crashes, it’s not my responsibility,” he remembers.
That’s when the other flight attendants stepped in and a struggle started.
Kevin Ritch, who had begun taking video of the flight attendants trying to restrain their disturbed co-worker, dropped his phone when the other attendants asked for his help.
The camera went black. But the audio continued to record.
The flight attendant screamed, “Get out of my way!”
When Ritch and two other men began restraining her, she asked them if they were Navy Seals.
But, unlike the JetBlue flight, the American Airlines flight hadn’t even left the ground yet.
“I’m still thankful that when it happened, we weren’t in the air,” he said.
The American Airlines flight attendant, who admitted she was bi-polar and had not taken her medications, was never charged.
The JetBlue captain had ranted about “Jesus, September 11th, Iraq, Iran and terrorists” among other things.
He, too, was restrained by passengers after a pilot locked him out of the cockpit.
But, Dallas FBI Agents and federal prosecutors took quick action and filed a criminal complaint against the pilot.
Former U.S. Attorney of the Northern District of Texas, Richard Roper, said, “There’s no criminal defense for having mental issues on a flight. Your conduct is something that has to have caused you to violate a statute.”
The JetBlue pilot is charged with violating the statute of interfering with a flight crew. He did it while they were in the air. He faces a fine of up to $250,000 and 20 years in jail.
The American Airlines Flight Attendant, who was still on the ground, did not jeopardize the crew.
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