Friday, March 27, 2015

Pilot Sues JetBlue for Allegedly Letting Him Fly While Mentally Unfit • Clayton Osbon, whose behavior diverted a flight three years ago, says the airline had evidence of his condition

JetBlue pilot Clayton Osbon, shown in chair in March 2012, sued the airline, saying it permitted him to fly despite what he claims was evidence of his mental-health problems. 
Photo: Reuters

The Wall Street Journal
By Jack Nicas
March 27, 2015 7:11 p.m. ET

A JetBlue Airways Corp. pilot whose erratic behavior diverted a U.S. flight three years ago sued the airline on Friday for permitting him to fly despite what he claims was evidence of his mental-health problems.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in New York, relates to a New York-to-Las Vegas JetBlue flight on March 27, 2012, in which the pilot, Clayton Osbon, told his co-pilot that “we need to take a leap of faith” and that “we’re not going to Vegas,” among other bizarre actions, according to federal investigators. The co-pilot locked Mr. Osbon out of the cockpit and diverted the flight to Texas, where federal authorities charged Mr. Osbon with interfering with the flight crew.

A federal judge in Texas later found Mr. Osbon, 52 years old, not guilty by reason of insanity.

The suit comes as European authorities investigate the mental health history of a Germanwings co-pilot who they allege deliberately crashed a jet into the French Alps on Tuesday, killing all 150 people on board. The Germanwings co-pilot was being treated for depression, which he concealed from his employer, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday, citing a person familiar with the investigation.

Mr. Osbon’s suit claims breach of contract and negligence by JetBlue for allowing him to fly on the day of the incident despite evidence that he was suffering from mental-health issues. He is seeking more than $14 million from JetBlue.

JetBlue said in an email that while it couldn’t discuss the specifics of the case, “we stand behind the heroic actions of the crew, who followed well-established safety and security procedures.”

Mr. Osbon said in the filing that he suffered from a “complex partial brain seizure” and that his actions before the flight—including missing the preflight meeting and struggling to complete the preflight checklist—should have made clear he was mentally unfit to fly.

Mr. Osbon was one of JetBlue’s first pilots, hired shortly after the airline formed in 2000. Shortly after the incident, then-JetBlue CEO Dave Barger said that he knew him “personally for a long period of time and there’s been no indication of this at all in the past.”

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