Topic of the Week: JetBlue 191


We all know now about JetBlue 191 with the captain who broke down and was restrained on his flight. To me, it seems like the first officer handled this perfectly by getting the captain out of the cockpit and then locking the door. But does this concern anyone out there as a traveler? Something you’ll be thinking about on your next flight or no?

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35 comments on “Topic of the Week: JetBlue 191

    1. Yet another reason why arming pilots is insane…

      I actually read that story in the United Club at LAX waiting to get from a very long flight to a long flight. I am fairly sure I gave the story no thought on my next flight… I have to fly for work, so there isn’t much I can do in any case but expect that in a similar situation the other pilot would handle it similarly…

        1. Which is also a crap idea – I sat next to the SM on a flight from ORD to LHR – he had at least 3 whiskeys in the first 2hrs of the flight.

  1. Way too much attention is paid to airline safety risks. My gosh, you’re safer on an airplane than in your own home! So one pilot “freaks out.” Big deal. The worst thing that’s likely to happen now is that his fellow pilots will have to engage in overkill psychological questioning during their required medical exams (kind of like how the TSA is an overreaction to the terrorists). Oh well. The human mind isn’t rational — which is true in both this pilot’s freak out and the likely public “freak out” reaction to it.

      1. To those of you who don’t want pilots carrying guns:

        Please please please never ever ever buy an airline ticket again. Drive, take a ship, ride the train. Because if you can’t trust a pilot with a gun you sure as heck shouldn’t be trusting him with your life by letting him fly you anywhere.

        Of course if we are going to follow this line of thinking to its logical end perhaps we should permanently ground all armed military aircraft. After all what if a military pilot freaks out and decides to bomb a town??

  2. The captain had a breakdown – it happens to lots of people every day. Mental illness is still a taboo and the masses do not realise that people can and often do recover from it.
    The point of having 2 pilots in commercial aircraft, is that if one becomes ill, there’s somebody else who can takeover until the plane is on the ground. There have been cases where the captain has had a cardiac arrest and died in his or her seat, and the first officer has had to take over.

    Way too much noise has been made about this whole episode and the unfortunate captain’s name should not have been released to the public – his name will be all over Google and his career even outside aviation is destroyed.

    1. Oh, and I was reading this right before getting on a plane. Lucky’s story about how he woke up at a hotel with extreme abdominal pain and had to be taken to the hospital was more worrisome (but not that much, and I read that while in line to board a flight). In the end, flying is the safest mode of transportation, even safer than walking.

  3. Did anyone notice that during both recent events (FA Rant @ DFW) and this incident on Jet Blue, there weren’t any Sky marshals involved?

    I know that they can’t be on every flight, but you’d think that a marshal would be on the NY flight.

  4. I have to admit that the airline nerd in me took over when I first heard this story and thought about the fact that the flight number was, once again, 191. The rational part of me knows that it is a coincidence but still…strange.

    My father was a professor and practitioner in the mental health community (and a private pilot) and one of the things I learned from him was that a mental breakdown can happen to anyone and for what appears to be unexplained reasons. In the 1980s he dealt with a few patients dealing with PTSD as a result of service in Vietnam. Given the stress air crews have gone through in the past 10+ years with 9-11, Chapter 11, congested skies, etc. I’m surprised it’s taken this long for this type of event to take place. It sounds like the Jet Blue crew did a great job in maintaining safety and getting the plane on the ground. Hopefully the Captain can get the help he needs and work past this challenging period in his life.

  5. Good thing it was the stable person on the flight deck who had the idea of tricking the other person to leave so the door could be locked behind him.

  6. Doesn’t bother me in the slightest, there’s enough redundancy (as was demonstrated) in the system to protect us/the aircraft! What bothers me more is the natural inclination of people to film someone having a breakdown, I only hope there’s someone with a camera phone nearby should it happen to them!

  7. One thing I know for sure, I am staying well away from any flight numbered 191. This is just getting a little too weird. Delta 191, AA 191, Comair 191, jetBlue 191…what’s the deal with this flight number?

  8. My insight: could the captain have believed his FO was staging a hijacking when he rushed from the back to the front? The possibility isn’t completely off base.

  9. What I don’t understand about this is how federal prosecutors could charge him, let alone almost immediately after this happened. It seems like a clear-cut case of indict first, ask questions later… when it looks based upon the information available that he had a mental breakdown and so did not possess the mental faculty to commit a crime. Any insights from Cranky readers?

    1. Indict means to accuse. You always indict first and then ask questions later. Without an indictment, you can’t start a trial.

      1. Why accuse first without investigating properly? I assume a 72 hr psych hold hadn’t been completed and yet we’re already reading about criminal charges. And in Florida we still have a guy who shot some unarmed 17 year old kid and has to been indicted…

  10. It is sad that this pilot broke down. But, we don’t know why since he had no history of psychological problems. It is possible that there was a neurological disorder, perhaps involving the temporal lobe. More information should be available shortly after his hospital evaluation.

    The Feds charged him so they could have a serious role in the investigation. There are issues which the FAA will want to pursue in regard to aviation policy, unless this is a one-time fluke.

  11. Any one of us at any time is capable of irrational thought, and any one of us is possible of acting on that thought. Why should this be any different other than it lends to the increase of selling ads during the evening news? I am speculating that this type of thing happens more than we want to know, but it may not have been a slow news day at that time. Or more likely, “Toll Booth Operator Looses It” is not as sensational as “Pilot Off The Deep End”. Did the first officer over react as well? Personally I think he did the right thing, but still; is it possible he inadvertently helped to blow this whole thing out of proportion?

    I am still more afraid of the truck behind me while stopped at a red light on a crowded intersection. One uncontrolled nudge and it could be all over. Wish he had a co-pilot…

    1. There is an 9/11 worth of deaths on American roads every month. Compare how much time and effort has been on the TSA versus the road deaths.

  12. Like bdbd above I wondered what would have happened if the “crazy guy” had been less obvious and locked the sane copilot out of the cockpit (potty break?). What are the options in that case? Do all airlines have a policy of a flight attendant being in the cockpit when one of the pilots is out to take a break?

  13. It is so great to see most of CF’s readers and posters here are actually smart. Reading other reports from other sites and comments makes me so mad when I hear things such as, “I’ll never fly again” or, “What is the problem with jetblue?” This could have happened to anyone at anytime no matter how much secreening is done. I hope the pilot and his family can rebuild their lives together and move on. One thing I do hope for is that Jetblue manages to try and help him in some way and not just throw him aside like garbage. 12 years of service for an airline that is probably that old (maybe a BIT more) has gotta count for something. I realized he was suspended (rightfully should have been). But let’s hope this airline can show compassion too.

  14. It is interesting that postal inspectors, small town cops, air marshalls, and the D.C. zoo police carry government guns on aircraft. these people all have issues as well and are not required to take drug tests 2/year and random tests as well. Pilots are some of the most regulated people on earth. Jetblue did need to do a better job with their hiring when checking backrounds though. Lying on an application about your college is easily checked.

  15. It is frustrating to see every aviation issue blown out of proportion. There are emergencies large and small in aviation all of the time. Fortunately many of them the passengers don’t even know about because the pilots handle them so well. I think this was handled very well in the heat of the moment. I too hope that JetBlue does what they can to help this guy get better.

  16. There’s almost no reason at all to fear this would be a problem (in the US at least). There’s less than 1/1000th of a percent chance this ‘normally’ happens based on the data.

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