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Passengers restrain ranting JetBlue pilot
LAS VEGAS — Passengers onboard a JetBlue flight bound for Las Vegas on Tuesday tackled and restrained the plane’s captain after he was locked out of the cockpit by crew members, screamed ‘they’re going to take us down’ and ranted about al Qaeda and a possible bomb onboard, passengers said.
The captain of JetBlue Airways Flight 191 from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport had a “medical situation” and the co-pilot diverted the plane to land in Amarillo, Texas, around 10 a.m., the airline said.
Passengers said the captain stormed out of the cockpit and started acting erratically and seemed disoriented. Tony Antolino, a 40-year-old executive for a security firm, said the captain walked to the back of the plane after crew members tried to calm him down. He then began yelling about an unspecified threat linked to Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“They’re going to take us down. They’re taking us down. They’re going to take us down. Say the Lord’s prayer. Say the Lord’s prayer,” the captain screamed, according to Mr. Antolino.
The captain then tried to re-enter the cockpit, but he was not allowed back in. The captain had been exhibiting “erratic behavior,” so the co-pilot locked him out of the cockpit, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.
Gabriel Schonzeit, who was sitting in the third row, said the captain said there could be a bomb onboard the flight.
An off-duty airline captain who just happened to be a passenger on the flight went to the flight deck and took over the duties of the ill captain “once on the ground,” the airline said in a statement. It didn’t elaborate.
Shane Helton, 39, of Quinlan, Okla., said he saw emergency and security personnel coming on and off the plane as it sat on the tarmac at the Amarillo airport.
“They pulled one guy out on a stretcher and put him in an ambulance,” said Mr. Helton, who went to the airport with his fiancee to see one of her sons off as he joined the Navy.
The FBI was coordinating an investigation with the airport police, Amarillo police, the FAA and the Transportation Safety Administration, said agency spokeswoman Lydia Maese in Dallas. She declined to say if any arrests had been made.
As a result of the incident, the FAA is likely to review the captain’s medical certificate essentially a seal of approval that the pilot is healthy. All pilots working for scheduled airlines must have a first-class medical certificate. The certificates are required to be renewed every year if the pilot is under 40, every six months if 40 or over.
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Born in 1930 in rural Missouri, Charles Vandegriffe, Sr., brings his time and place to the Communities.
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