When Pilots Attack

Holy shit:

A JetBlue Airways Corp. flight was diverted Tuesday after the captain was locked out of the cockpit for “erratic behavior,” then ran up and down the aisle and banged on the cockpit door before being subdued by passengers, according to the Federal Aviation Administration and accounts from passengers.

The FAA said in a statement that the co-pilot locked the captain out of the cockpit after becoming concerned with his behavior. A person familiar with the matter said the captain was attempting to flip switches in the cockpit that shouldn’t have been flipped.

Locked out of the cockpit, he became enraged, said Mr. Antolino and another passenger, Grant Heppes, a 22-year-old marketing director from New York who was sitting near the rear of the cabin. Mr. Heppes said he watched the captain run up and down the aisle before hearing banging on the cockpit door, “and the co-pilot came over the loudspeaker saying, ‘Do not let him in. Restrain him.’ ”

Mr. Antolino said he and three other male passengers then restrained the captain, whom he described as “a big, strong guy.” who “put up a good struggle.” During the tussle, the captain shouted that Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan “are going to take us down,” Mr. Antolino said. “He had a delusion that something was going to happen. And then he suggested everybody say the Lord’s Prayer. Then that was it; we just tackled him.”

There’s plenty of cell phone video out there where you can hear him ranting and raving.

You know what? I’m encouraged by this. This is about the worst situation we can imagine: a pilot losing it. And … once again … it was the ordinary Americans — the-copilot and the passengers — who dealt with it.

For all our security theater, all our pat-downs of wheelchair-bound three year olds, all TSA’s boasting about catching explosives on their second attempt, we are our own last best line of defense. We see this over and over again: the heroic passengers of United 93; the passengers who caught and subdued the shoe bomber; the passengers who stopped and subdued the undie bomber; and now the passengers on Jet Blue.

You can keep your multi-billion dollar security industry. I’ll put my faith in my fellow Americans.

Comments are closed.

  1. AlexInCT

    Yes, the reaction to the incident and that nobody was hurt is encouraging, but I am totally baffled by how a pilot loses it like this guy did. Lacking details I am left guessing if this was a nervous breakdown caused by stress at home, a diabetic incident, a drug induced mania episode, or if there is something else at work here. Pilots are usually people that have to have solid mental abilities and prove psychological stability. And to rack up 18K hours of flight time like this guy has, you can not be a flake. So how does someone just flip like this?

    There is something here we are missing, and that might be the bigger story.

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  2. Hal_10000 *

    Agreed, Alex. I don’t think this was just a bad day. The FAA may need to look a little more closely at their certiication.

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  3. TxAg94

    The FAA may need to look a little more closely at their certiication.

    May be a bit premature to encourage more regulation of pilots. The unofficial system worked in a VERY isolated incident. No sense getting carried away just yet. The copilot appears to have thought quickly and took the first steps to handling the situation, get the guy separated from his ability to do direct and catastrophic damage.

    You can be assured, though, that TSA will find a way to insert itself more into the pilot side of things. That locking cockpit door is just as useful for keeping those idiots out. It needs to stay that way but they will use this to increase their power.

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  4. Seattle Outcast

    There is something here we are missing, and that might be the bigger story

    Absolutely anybody can be subject to a psychotic break if the right pressures are applied. Biggest contributor would be sleep deprivation, add in some medications, ongoing stress from a boss or spouse, and a handful of “whatever this person obsesses about” and BAM!! full mental breakdown out of the blue.

    Seen it happen more than once, and while you can see that something is going wrong ahead of time, when they finally snap it can happen so fast you won’t know it happened until later. All you know is that five minutes ago they were worried about X, and now their behavior might range from suicidal to homicidal in a matter of moments.

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  5. RightOnDave

    One thing to have an enraged pilot locked out of the cockpit. Another if the captain becomes enraged while inside the cockpit and won’t leave, remaining behind the locked door. In that case, there are no passengers to help. It’s mano-a-mano, captain vs. first officer.

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  6. TxAg94

    One thing to have an enraged pilot locked out of the cockpit. Another if the captain becomes enraged while inside the cockpit and won’t leave, remaining behind the locked door. In that case, there are no passengers to help. It’s mano-a-mano, captain vs. first officer.

    That’s why you always know where the crash ax and/or fire exteinguisher are and commit yourself to not having to think about using it if and when the time comes.

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