JetBlue Flight 19 flew at cruise altitude on its way from New York to Las Vegas on Tuesday, passengers were surely shocked to see the captain, Clayton Osbon, racing down the aisle of the A320.
A newly released affidavit by Amarillo-based FBI Agent John Whitworth, describes the bizarre scene in which Capt. Osbon emerges from the forward bathroom and, rather than returning to the cockpit, walks to the back of the airplane stopping along the way to ask a male passenger "if he had a problem."
Capt. Osbon then raced back up toward the front of the plane and began to pound on the now-closed and locked cockpit door.
Many of the details have already been reported since the emergency landing in Amarillo on Tuesday. But the story relayed to the FBI by the flight attendants, first officer Jason Dowd and the off duty JetBlue pilot who responded to Dowd's request to assist him in the cockpit explain why so many of the passengers feel their lives were in jeopardy that day.
Aviation writer and airline pilot Patrick Smith tries often and with vehemence to destroy the myth that co-pilots are a kind of "junior pilot" unable to handle an airplane without the captain's supervision. Certainly Dowd's request for help from the off-duty pilot, from the flight attendants and from the passengers shows he's capable of quick and creative thinking in addition to capably making an unplanned landing at an unfamiliar airport.
Reading through the affidavit, I have to conclude that what's behind the passengers' sense that they narrowly escaped Flight 191 with their lives has less to do with a lack of confidence in what was going in the front of the plane than a disbelief in what they were seeing unfold in the back.
You can read the FBI document here.
Osbon Complaint and Affidavit