A Georgia neighbor of JetBlue pilot Clayton Frederick Osbon said he was shocked to hear of the events that forced the airliner to make an emergency landing Tuesday in Amarillo, Texas.
“Clayton actually has a private plane of his own that he flies around the island here,” said Elton Stafford, who lives in Richmond Hill, Ga., near Savannah. “Sometimes, he’ll buzz on over the dock, so kids can see him and everything. So he is just a fun-loving guy, just loves everybody.”
Osbon, 49, was the captain aboard JetBlue Flight 191, which landed at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport after he raced screaming up an aisle and beat on a cockpit door, shouting about bombs and threats from al-Qaida, airport officials and passengers said. Bound for Las Vegas from New York, the flight diverted to Amarillo as passengers brought Osbon to the floor and subdued him until authorities boarded the aircraft, officials said.
Osbon was taken by ambulance to Northwest Texas Hospital. Authorities would not elaborate on Osbon’s condition or what happened during the flight. JetBlue officials said in a statement that the flight captain suffered from a medical condition that forced another captain onboard the plane but not on the crew to take over.
His neighbor said he didn’t think Osbon had any medical problems.
“Clayton told you what he thought,” Stafford said. “He didn’t beat around the bush about anything. He is just a straight-up guy. This actually had to be some kind of a mental thing that just hit him or something.”
Osbon, a Milwaukee native, has flown an Airbus 320 plane for JetBlue since 2000, according to a profile published last year in Richmond Hill Reflections, a Georgia magazine. Osbon worked as the flight standards captain for the airline, the article says.
He is based out of John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, according to his profile on the LinkedIn social networking Web site.
Federal Aviation Administration records show Osbon most recently earned an airline transport pilot certificate in April.
Osbon boarded his first plane when he was about 7, according to the magazine profile.
“I’ve been instrument flying since before I could see over the dashboard – sitting on phone books eventually,” he told Richmond Hill Reflections.
Osbon received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in 1986, according to his LinkedIn profile. He earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical physics a year later at Hawthorne College in New Hampshire, his profile shows.
NetJets, a private aviation company, hired Osbon in 1994, and he flew a Gulfstream IV around the world, according to the magazine profile.
“It’s fun to fly,” Osbon told the magazine. “If you’re going to finish your career or get to the top of the ladder as a corporate pilot, Gulfstream would be one of those plateaus. You’d say to yourself, ‘I’ve arrived.’”
He moved to Georgia about three years later, the magazine article says.
Osbon also worked as an independent distributor for Body by Vi, a weight-loss company.
Calls to Osbon’s home were not returned. Bryan County sheriff’s deputies patrolled Osbon’s neighborhood Tuesday evening.
Stafford said he met Osbon at a homeowners’ association meeting and they have been friends ever since.
“We have had a lot of business dealings together and also a good friendship,” he said.