Passengers said a pilot went berserk on a Las Vegas-bound flight that departed from JFK this morning.
JetBlue flight #191 was forced to land in Amarillo, Texas at about 10 a.m.
He shouted to passengers to "say your prayers," ranted about bombs and ran up and down the aisles.
According to reports, the co-pilot noticed the pilot acting strangely. He convinced him to leave the cabin and then locked him out of the cockpit.
A passenger speaks
The 7 a.m. flight went smoothly until about two and a half hours into it, said passenger and native New Yorker Stephen Teitelbaum, who was one of the five people who restrained the pilot, including a retired NYPD sergeant.
“I was sitting towards the back of the plane and I noticed the pilot in the front. He was very agitated,” said Teitelbaum, 29, of the hair-raising experience. The pilot ran to the back of the plane, grabbed a bottle of water, and then ran back to the front.
“I saw the flight attendant chasing him. I took my headset off and immediately said to myself, ‘This is no good. There’s something wrong with the plane, something they’re not telling us.’”
The pilot started banging on the bathroom door and that’s when Teitelbaum got out of his seat to go help.
“A few other men did the same; we thought there was someone in the bathroom. Then the flight attendant said please restrain him and it was apparent he was the problem,” he said.
At that point the pilot, wild-eyed, started babbling about Iraq.
“He saying things about Iraq, saying we have to watch our for Iran, we have to pray for Israel. I know how to get them, I know how to get them,” said Teitelbaum. “He said, ‘You need to pray for us.’ His eyes were very open, he looked like he was in a panic.”
Teitelbaum said he suspects the pilot may have served in the military.
The estimated six-foot-four, 200-pound pilot didn’t fight as the men calmed him down and he was placed in a seat while the plane landed. Passengers tied his hands together with seatbelts and another passenger hugged his legs together, he said.
'Hero' co-pilot commended
The flight had 135 passengers and five crew members, who all landed safely in Texas.
According to reports, the pilot, still wearing his signature blue JetBlue uniform, was taken off the plane in a stretcher, a photo of which can be seen here. Once on the ground and taken off the plane, the pilot began reciting the Lord’s prayer, said Teitelbaum.
“The whole situation probably lasted 10 minutes. Clearly he had a mental or emotional break,” said Teitelbaum.
Teitelbaum gave thanks to the entire JetBlue crew, especially the co-pilot.
“The co-pilot saw the situation transpire and very creatively
suggested he leave the cockpit, go get a glass of water or something,
and the cabin door was locked again,” said Teitelbaum. “We’ve all been
talking about how clearly if he wasn’t out of the cockpit who knows what
he could have done. It’s really scary to think about it. He stepped in
and prevented a situation from getting a lot worse. He’s probably really
Teitelbaum also said he heard JetBlue crew talking after the incident.
“They said when they had their morning briefing everyone seemed fine and normal," said Teitelbaum.
Tiffany Lee, a passenger onboard, wrote on Twitter, "Our pilot went nuts and we had to land in Amarillo. I am never flying jetblue ever again!! saw my life flash before my eyes today..unreal."