NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Queens landlady of the JetBlue pilot, who was tackled by passengers after having an apparent meltdown during a flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport to Las Vegas, said Wednesday she’s sick about what happened and called him “a gentleman.”
WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane reports
Wanda Serra, 83, said she’s rented the top floor of a home on 150th Avenue in South Ozone Park near JFK to pilot Clayton Osbon for nearly a decade. Osbon lives in Richmond Hill, Ga., but because he flies out of JFK so often, he stays at the Queens apartment during layovers between flights and shares it with four other pilots.
“I can’t understand this,” Serra told WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane. “He wouldn’t live here if he did anything like this. He’s a gentleman.”
Serra said Osbon is like a son to her.
“I love him, he’s a great guy,” she said. “He never hurt nobody, never. It’s unbelievable how something like this could happen.”
Osbon was often seen tossing around the football and watching Giants games, which is why neighbors in Queens said they can’t recall any indication that such an apparent breakdown was possible.
“We never saw any signs like this,” neighbor Thomas Consiglio told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown. “He never seemed stressed, he never seemed depressed, upset, always just a happy-go-lucky guy. Always in a good mood.”
Writer Christine Lucas, who interviewed the pilot for her article “Guys In The Skies,” for the magazine, “Richmond Hill Reflections,” was floored when she found out about the incident and thinks it had to be a medical issue.
1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera Hears From A Writer Who Previously Interviewed The Pilot
“Quite frankly, it’s more than somebody going crazy or flipping out or ranting. You know, something happened to this person to cause him to act this way,” Lucas told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera.
Lucas said that Osbon was “passionate about his job and he was happy to be working for JetBlue — at least in as much as he expressed to me.”
Alarmed passengers say the veteran captain lost it mid-flight Tuesday morning, walked out of the cockpit and began shouting about Afghanistan, terrorism and bombs.
“He started ranting about Iraq, Iran, they’re going to take us down, say the Lord’s prayer,” described passenger Tony Antolino. “At that point, we literally just tackled him to the ground and restrained him.”
Antolino was one of four passengers who helped restrain Osbon, pinning him to the floor as the plane’s co-pilot diverted the flight to Amarillo, Texas with the help of another off-duty pilot who was aboard the flight.
At their family home in Richmond Hill, just outside of Savannah, Ga., Osbon’s wife has asked people to reserve judgment until all the facts come out.
“I’m glad the passengers are safe. I have no idea what happened, but I know JetBlue is handling the situation,” Osbon’s wife told CBS affiliate WTOC in Savannah.
Osbon’s apparent mid-air meltdown has prompted many to ask how thorough medical exams are for pilots.
WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reports
“It’s all very regulated and all spelled out in the federal code regulations,” Ben Struck, chief flight instructor at Farmingdale State College told WCBS 880 reporter Sophia Hall. “Eyes, what criteria you have to meet and your hearing.”
Struck said as a commercial pilot, medical screenings are done once a year if you are under the age of 40 and twice a year if you are over the age of 40. He said a mental health evaluation is also part of the screening.
“If he had any history of psychosis or bi-polar disorder or substance abuse, all those things could be disqualifying factors,” Struck said.
JetBlue said Wednesday that Osbon was being suspended pending further investigation. In a statement Tuesday, JetBlue described the incident as “a medical situation involving the captain.”
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