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No one recalls JetBlue Airways captain Clayton Osbon coming unhinged before. Not the airline that let him fly for 12 years, the neighbors in his secluded waterfront community or the friends he tried selling weight-loss shakes to on the side.
Now federal prosecutors have charged Osbon following his bizarre unraveling aboard Flight 191 to Las Vegas, describing in court records a midair breakdown they say began with cockpit ramblings about religion and ended with passengers wrestling him to the cabin floor
Witness accounts of Osbon telling his co-pilot "things just don't matter" and sprinting down the center aisle -- yelling jumbled remarks about Sept. 11 and Iran -- baffled longtime friends and fellow pilots who said they couldn't remember previous health or mental problems.
"I can't say whether it's shock or disbelief," said Justin Ates, a corporate jet pilot and friend who also lives in Richmond Hill. "It's hard to describe what you feel when you see something that's completely 100 percent out of character."
A pilot with JetBlue since 2000, Osbon acted oddly and became increasingly erratic on the flight, worrying his fellow crew members so much that they locked him out of cockpit after he abruptly left for the cabin, according to a federal affidavit. He then started yelling about Jesus, al-Qaida and a possible bomb on board, forcing passengers to tackle him and tie him up with seat belt extenders for about 20 minutes until the planed landed.
"The (first officer) became really worried when Osbon said `we need to take a leap of faith,'" according to the sworn affidavit given by an FBI agent John Whitworth. "Osbon started trying to correlate completely unrelated numbers like different radio frequencies, and he talked about sins in Las Vegas."
Osbon went to church but seldom talked about it and never seemed overly zealous, Lawyer said. And while the friends would occasionally chat about events in the Middle East, their talk never went beyond casual conversation about the events in the news, he said.
Osbon's LinkedIn profile states that he received a degree in aeronautical physics from Hawthorne College and a physics degree from Carnegie Mellon University. However, Carnegie Mellon spokeswoman Teresa Thomas said Osbon attended the school for three years but never obtain his degree.