Drugs Suspected in JetBlue Meltdown

By Valerie Tejeda 03/29/12

Prescribed or illegal drugs, mental illness or even a brain tumor are seen as possible causes of the airline captain's bizarre behavior.

Pilot Clayton Osbon lost it on the way
to Vegas.
Photo via

Drugs are naturally enough being considered as one possible cause of pilot Clayton Osbon's erratic behavior on JetBlue flight 191 earlier this week. The 49-year-old captain frightened passengers when he began acting erratically, ranting about Iran and 9/11, and flipping switches in the cockpit on a routine flight from New York's JFK Airport to Las Vegas. He is now being tested for drug use, as well as undergoing tests for mental illness, infection, and even a brain tumor. "The captain of the plane just went berserk," passenger Wayne Holmes tells ABC. "He came out of the other end of the plane—came running back to the cockpit and he was shouting out these numbers—500 something. He started banging on the cockpit door." Obson then frantically told a flight attendant, "You'd better start praying right now," and further ranted about Al Qaeda, Jesus, a bomb, even claiming that the plane would crash. "Pilots often have weird shift work," says Una McCann, director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at Johns Hopkins Medical Institution. "Drugs prescribed over the counter, and, in particular sleep deprivation, can turn someone over the edge." Authorities have been saying that Obson suffered a panic attack, but not everyone believes it. "Rage is not a typical feature of uncomplicated panic," says McCann, "So there is clearly something additional that took place here."

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix, Salon.com, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.