Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Take on the News: 'The Captain Went Nuts; Enjoy Your Flight'

I've got another 'my take on the news' in the works, but JetBlue Flight 191 to Las Vegas this Tuesday caught my attention. I plan to be back tomorrow morning, with my take on something Benedict XVI said in Cuba, someone holding a sign, and visa troubles.

Now, about that in-flight freak out:
  1. When the Captain Snaps
  2. "Ramblings About Religion," and Getting a Grip
  3. "Medical Situation" and "the CEO Admitted"
  4. That's Crazy
In-flight craziness may not be all that unusual, sadly. This one stands out because it was the airliner's captain who snapped. And there's a religious angle to the story.

"...Make Disciples of All Nations..."

I'm a practicing Catholic, so I take my Lord's standing order to "make disciples of all nations" quite seriously. (Matthew 28:19) Interestingly, after Jesus stopped being dead, he's quoted as saying "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature...." (Mark 16:15) Translated into my native language, of course. And that's another topic. Topics.

The billion or so living Catholics aren't identical: which is the way it's supposed to be. (1 Corinthians 12, 1 Corinthians 14) Yet more topics. (June 1, 2011) Some folks are good at 'proclaiming the gospel' in the 'revival meeting' sense. I'm not. I've tried. This blog is my way of letting folks know about my Lord. Which doesn't mean that I'm trying to 'make' you do anything. Yet again more topics. (November 6, 2011, February 12, 2011)

One approach to making "disciples of all nations" that I suspect isn't particularly effective is what I ran into in San Francisco, back in the '70s. Now and again I'd hear some unkempt fellow at a street corner. He'd be holding a book, and screaming Bible verses.

Then there's what Captain Osborn did:

1. When the Captain Snaps

"JetBlue pilot charged with interfering with crew"
Associated Press, via (March 28, 2012)

"A JetBlue Airways captain who sprinted through the cabin of a Las Vegas-bound flight screaming about terrorists, Jesus and Sept. 11 was charged Wednesday with interfering with a flight crew, federal authorities said.

"Captain Clayton Osbon told his co-pilot that 'things just don't matter' shortly after JetBlue Flight 191 from New York departed Tuesday, according to an affidavit. Osbon, who was ultimately tackled by passengers while the plane made an emergency landing in Texas, told his co-pilot that 'we're not going to Vegas' and began what was described as a sermon, the court documents said.

" 'The (first officer) became really worried when Osbon said "we need to take a leap of faith," ' according to the sworn affidavit given by an FBI agent. 'Osbon started trying to correlate completely unrelated numbers like different radio frequencies, and he talked about sins in Las Vegas.'

"Osbon left the cockpit soon after and tensions on the plane began to escalate...."
"Trying to correlate completely unrelated numbers" reminded me of some of radio preachers of my youth. One of them threw Revelation, numerology, and some of the Soviet Union's military inventory into a blender and came up with yet another 'Bible prophecy' of the coming 'End Times.' So far, he's off by almost a half-century. Considering what happened in 1991-1992, I think it's safe to say that wannabe prophet was flat-out wrong. Still more topics.

I've told how that weird combination of chauvinism, numerology, and Bible trivia, led me to become a Catholic. But I don't think presenting personal biases and taste in music as the unchanging Word of God is a good idea.

I also doubt that Captain Osborn boarded JetBlue Flight 191 to Las Vegas filled with missionary zeal. I'll get back to that.

'Hello, This is Your Co-Pilot: The Captain Went Nuts; Enjoy Your Flight'

"...From inside the locked cockpit, which Osbon tried to re-enter by banging on the door, the first officer gave an order through the intercom to restrain Osbon....

"...The charges against Osbon, 49, were filed in Texas. He was being held Wednesday at Northwest Texas Healthcare System in Amarillo and remains under a medical evaluation....

"...JetBlue spokeswoman Allison Steinberg said earlier Wednesday that Osbon had been suspended pending a review of the flight.

"Osbon has been a pilot for JetBlue since 2000. The company's CEO and president Dave Barger told NBC's 'Today' show that Osbon is a 'consummate professional' whom he has 'personally known' for years...."
(Associated Press, via
Seeing the captain act like a lunatic, and hearing the first officer give orders that confirm that impression, isn't the worst air travel experience possible:But it's far from normal.

2. "Ramblings About Religion," and Getting a Grip

"JetBlue pilot's unraveling baffles friends"
Paul J. Weber and Russ Bynum, Associated Press, Press-Telegram (Long Beach, Florida) (March 29, 2012)

"No one recalls JetBlue Airways captain Clayton Osbon coming unhinged before. Not the airline that let him fly for 12 years, the neighbors in his secluded waterfront community or the friends he tried selling weight-loss shakes to on the side.

"Now federal prosecutors have charged Osbon following his bizarre unraveling aboard Flight 191 to Las Vegas, describing in court records a midair breakdown they say began with cockpit ramblings about religion and ended with passengers wrestling him to the cabin floor.

"Witness accounts of Osbon telling his co-pilot 'things just don't matter' and sprinting down the center aisle - yelling jumbled remarks about Sept. 11 and Iran - baffled longtime friends and fellow pilots who said they couldn't remember previous health or mental problems.....

"...A pilot with JetBlue since 2000, Osbon acted oddly and became increasingly erratic on the flight, worrying his fellow crew members so much that they locked him out of cockpit after he abruptly left for the cabin, according to a federal affidavit. He then started yelling about Jesus, al-Qaida and a possible bomb on board, forcing passengers to tackle him and tie him up with seat belt extenders for about 20 minutes...."
If I looked in enough places, I'd probably find a letter to the editor, op-ed, or maybe even a lead story, about the folly of letting religious people be pilots. The notion that folks who have religious beliefs, and take them seriously, are a bit nuts isn't as rare as I'd like.

Some folks who 'act religious' do seem to be a bit crazy. Like the:
  • Fellow screaming Bible verses at commuters
  • Woman who went wild with a crowbar
  • Man who killed 'sinful' couples
That doesn't mean that all 'religious people' are dangerous lunatics: any more than Captain Osborn's address means that we should be wary of folks living in secluded waterfront communities.

3. "Medical Situation" and "the CEO Admitted"

"JetBlue CEO on pilot's mid-air meltdown: 'It started medical-but clearly more than that' "
Dylan Stableford, The Lookout, via Yahoo! News (March 28, 2012)

"JetBlue CEO Dave Barger spoke out on Wednesday, a day after one of the airline's captains had a mid-air meltdown, causing a flight from New York to Las Vegas to be diverted to Amarillo, Texas....

"...The captain, Clayton Osbon, became incoherent and the co-pilot locked him out of the cockpit. Osbon began shouting about threats from al-Qaida, Iran, Iraq and bombs aboard flight, and was subdued by several passengers, including an off-duty police officer. He was strapped down and later transported to a local medical facility....

"...On Tuesday, JetBlue's stated that Osbon had a 'medical situation,' but the CEO admitted it was more than that.

" 'What happened at altitude and the call into the FAA is that we had a medical situation and that's how we responded,' Barger said. 'Clearly, especially in today's [real-time] media, we know that it also became a security situation. I think as we know less than 24 hours later, it started medical but—clearly more than that.' "
I realize that reporters have to make a living, like most folks: but I'd appreciate seeing less of phrases like "but the CEO admitted...." It's better than the classic "have you stopped beating your wife," but writing that someone "admitted" a fact has different connotations from writing that someone "stated" the same fact. I loved language long before I became a recovering English teacher, which may explain the definitions I drop into these posts:

  1. What you must know in order to determine the reference of an expression
  2. An idea that is implied or suggested
    (Princeton's WordNet)
There's noting wrong with connotations, by themselves: That's what makes poetry work, and that's yet again another topic. When connotations are, arguably, used to imply guilt? That's something else.

Moving on.

Situations: Medical and Security

It's early days, but it looks like Captain Osborn may not have gotten up Tuesday morning and decided to make national headlines. Exactly how responsible he was is something I can't know at this point. There aren't enough facts in the news, and it's likely enough that investigators haven't finished sorting out this mess.

Particularly since what happened on Flight 191 seems to be a complete surprise, my guess is that the CEO is spot-on in stating that this is, in part, a medical situation. Maybe similar to one I've got personal experience with.

4. That's Crazy

"Why Does a Person Suddenly Lose It? Possible Causes Abound"
Andrea Petersen, Health Blog, The Wall Street Journal (March 28, 2012)

"What causes a seemingly healthy person to suddenly lose it?

It's a question likely on many minds in light of a series of recent episodes, such as when a JetBlue pilot had to be subdued yesterday by passengers after behaving erratically during a flight.

We don't know exactly what caused the pilot's disruptive actions, or why the co-founder of a group behind the 'Kony 2012' viral video had a public meltdown, or why an American Airlines flight attendant began speaking erratically on a taxiing flight's intercom.

"There's a long list of medical and psychiatric conditions that can trigger a psychotic episode, when a person seems to lose touch with reality. Among the possibilities: a brain tumor, head injury, thyroid condition, fever, infection, recreational drug use or a prescription-drug reaction. Several causes can lie behind incidences of what used to be called a nervous breakdown, too, as WSJ reported last month...."
My guess is that JetBlue's CEO - and folks running other airlines - are having someone take a long, hard, look at how they handle medical exams for their pilots. There's an awful lot that can go wrong with a human being: and some problems aren't as easy to check as booze on the breath.

Major Depression, Hallucinations, and Me

"...Agitated and delusional behavior can also accompany several mental disorders. People with bipolar disorder and major depression can have psychotic symptoms, especially when under major stress, David Hellerstein, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, tells the Health Blog...."

"...Symptoms include hallucinations and disorganized speech. 'I've seen people who have a brief psychotic reaction in response to some major stress and then it would resolve,' Dr. Hellerstein says. 'Probably given enough stress, anybody could have that.'..."
(Andrea Petersen)
After our youngest child died, I had a persistent auditory hallucination, so I'm in the "anybody could have that" category. Besides, I've got major depression, and have been on medication for a few years now. This sort of depression isn't the same as being pessimistic, by the way:

Virtue, Health, and Getting a Grip

It's easy to assume that God blesses virtuous folks by giving them health and wealth. Particularly, I suspect, for folks who are healthy and wealthy.

The flip side of that assumption is seeing folks who aren't healthy and wealthy as, well, not-virtuous. As someone born with bad hip sockets - and who lived most of his life with dodgy brain chemistry - I'm inclined to think otherwise. John 9:1-3, and all that.

Then there's the 'only people with weak character need medicine' attitude. I really, seriously, do not like taking painkillers: so there may be some of that attitude in me.

On the other hand, I'm savvy enough to know that taking prescribed medications as specified on the label is - prudent. Happily, I'm a Catholic. With about two millennia, and more, of accumulated wisdom to draw from, the Church has pretty good advice for folks:
  • Health
    • "Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good...."
      (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2288)
    • Making an idol of my body is a bad idea
      (Catechism, 2289)
    • Taking stupid risks with drinking and/or driving is - stupid
      (Catechism, 2290-2291)
  • Curing illness
  • Using drugs
      • "The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life...
        (Catechism, 2291)
    • Yes
      • If drugs are needed for health
      • "...Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense...."
        (Catechism, 2291)
        • This isn't an order to never take aspirin
          (See "painkillers )
    • But let's get real - - -
      • "...Clandestine production of and trafficking in drugs are scandalous practices...."
        (Catechism, 2291)
    (Originally posted September 14, 2011)
There's more: but I still have those other three news items to go over.

Related posts:More, in the news:


Brigid said...

Do you hab a code? "led be to become a Catholic."

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

P.S. Your dislike of medicine may come from your Norse roots. Stubbornly stoic lot, there.

Brian Gill said...


Id loogs lige I hab a code, doesn't it? Fixed, and thanks.

And, yes: the 'stubborn' part, anyway. I've yet to be silently stoic: or silently much of anything else. ;)

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Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.