Anthony Antolino of Rye went from passenger to active participant in a potentially serious situation. According to published reports, during Jet Blue Airways Flight 191 from JFK airport to Las Vegas pilot Clayton Osbon began exhibiting “erratic behavior” during the flight, exiting the cockpit, yelling and pacing throughout the cockpit. Rye Patch was able to reach Antolino earlier today.
“I was sitting in Row 10 and first noticed that things were awry when one of the captains came out of the cockpit in somewhat of an unexpected manner, without the normal protocol of the cabin crew,” said Antolino. “When he came out he was very erratic. He was very, very agitated...moving rapidly around...”
Antolino said he and three other passengers acted to restrain the pilot after it became clear that something was very wrong. “What was really the tipping point...was the fact that there was an off-duty pilot about three rows behind me and he and one of the flight attendants had apparently said something [about getting the situation under control].”
At one point during the epsiode, Antolino said Osbon went into a lavatory and the off-duty pilot was able to get into the cockpit and secured the area.
“That’s really when things went from bad to worse,” said Antolino. The pilot, now barred from entering the cockpit again tried continually to open the door by entering his keypad code. Fortunately, the pilots inside the compartment had managed to change the entry code and prevent Osbon from opening the door.
It was then Antolino and the other passengers physically restrained Osbon. Antolino said they held Osbon for as long as twenty minutes while the flight was diverted to Amarillo, Texas for an emergency landing. For a time, Osbon was quieted, but as they began their descent, he became excited again.
“He began yelling erratically about what guns in Iraq and Iran and Afghanistan, saying they’ll take the plane down” said Antolino. “Clearly there was a severe crisis, almost a delusion about what was on the flight, that something was going to happen.” Osbon’s behavior escalated to the point Antolino and the other men involved had to physically hold him down. “We literally...laid on top of him until the plane landed.”
The entire episode lasted about 20 minutes, but Antolino said even after landing Osbon was still obviously “in trouble.”
After landing in Amarillo, Antolino said they were “de-briefed” by the authorities there, but he has not had any direct contact with Jet Blue Airlines since. The company CEO Dave Barger thanked the men for their assistance during an appearance on the Today Show Wednesday morning.
Antolino, who is chief marketing executive for EyeLock Corporation, which develops iris recognition technology, was travelling alone on the flight, but sprang into action with three other passengers to subdue Osbon.
He said all passengers were offered a refund for the flight and an equal value round-trip ticket for future travel.