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Pilot, passenger midair freakouts put JetBlue and US Airways on alert

 

A disgruntled passenger aboard a US Airways flight from North Carolina to Florida was reportedly arrested Tuesday night after witnesses say she attacked crew members before being wrestled to the floor.

The latest incident comes on the heels of a JetBlue captain who had to be subdued by passengers after he apparently acted erratically during an early-morning flight Tuesday from New York’s Kennedy Airport to Las Vegas. JetBlue spokeswoman Sharon Jones told FoxNews.com that Clayton Osbon was removed from active duty pending a review of the incident.

Police in Florida are charging a New Jersey woman with three counts of battery and one count of interfering with an aircraft, after she allegedly attacked crew members on board a US Airways flight

According to an arrest report, the woman was apparently intoxicated on the flight from Charlotte, N.C., to Fort Myers, Fla. It says she kicked, spit on and cursed at a flight attendant after the crew member refused to serve her alcohol. 

The report says she then slapped a male attendant who tried to intervene and kicked another male flight attendant as an off-duty deputy who was on board the flight wrestled her to the back of the jet.

It says she continued kicking after her hands were cuffed by plastic restraints.

Meanwhile, more information is beginning to emerge about the circumstances aboard JetBlue Flight 191, which was forced to make an emergency landing in Amarillo, Texas, during its flight to Las Vegas.

The JetBlue captain's co-workers tried to calm him as he became more jittery, coaxing him to the back of the plane while making sure that he didn't return to the plane's controls.

Osbon, a JetBlue flight standards captain from Richmond Hill, Ga. He was taken into custody when the flight landed, but it wasn't immediately clear whether he faces any charges.

Osbon had ranted about Al Qaeda and a possible bomb onboard before being subdued, passengers said. Laurie Dhue, a former Fox News anchor who was on board the flight, said she also heard the captain mention "Afghanistan" and "Israel" during his rant.

Then, he sprinted up the cabin's aisle -- ranting about a bomb, screaming "They're going to take us down!" and urging confused passengers to pray.

"Nobody knew what to do because he is the captain of the plane," said Don Davis, the owner of a Ronkonkoma, New York-based wireless broadband manufacturer who was traveling to Sin City for a security industry conference.

Gabriel Schonzeit, who was sitting in the third row, said the captain said there could be a bomb on board the flight.

"He started screaming about Al Qaeda and possibly a bomb on the plane and Iraq and Iran and about how we were all going down," Schonzeit told the Amarillo Globe-News.

"A group of us just jumped up instinctually and grabbed him and put him to the ground," Antolino said.

Dave Barger, JetBlue’s CEO and president, says the captain who ranted about a bomb on a flight to Las Vegas is a "consummate professional" whom he has personally known for years. He said there is nothing in the captain's record to indicate he could be a risk.

Airline pilots must have a first-class medical certificate that has to be renewed every year if the pilot is under 40, and every six months for pilots over 40, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman told FoxNews.com. The examination takes psychological conditions as part of the assessment and all existing physical and psychological conditions must be disclosed, the spokesman said.

JetBlue declined to answer questions from FoxNews.com about Osbon's medical history or if he will be able to fly for the carrier again.

Josh Redick, who was sitting near the middle of the plane, said the captain seemed "irate" and was "spouting off about Afghanistan and souls and Al Qaeda."

Airline officials said the pilot was taken to a hospital.

The FBI was coordinating an investigation with the airport police, Amarillo police, the FAA and the Transportation Safety Administration, said agency spokeswoman Lydia Maese in Dallas. She declined to comment on arrests.

The flight left New York around 7 a.m. and was in the air for 3 1/2 hours before landing in Texas. The passengers boarded another plane for Las Vegas several hours later. That plane arrived in Las Vegas about two hours later.

John Cox, an aviation safety consultant and former airline pilot, said incidents in which pilots become mentally incapacitated during a flight are "pretty rare." He said he could only recall two or three other examples in the more than 40 years he has been following commercial aviation.

Andre Maye, vice president of administration for Phoenix East Aviation, an FAA-certified pilot school, said he believes Osbon may have a medical condition he might be unaware of since incidents involving pilots becoming unstable are extremely rare.

"Something like this is definitely not normal," Maye told FoxNews.com. "This is the first I've ever heard of something like it."

While some pilots can suffer from tight schedules and a lack of needed downtime, Maye said Tuesday's incident appears to be an isolated matter. But a more stressful post-9/11 environment can take a heavy toll on pilots, he said.

"The environment that we operate in now is definitely a lot more stressful than it was a decade ago," Maye said. "The level of accountability is much higher than it's ever been. Now it seems like there's more eyes watching than ever before, and you could say that's a good thing. But is it too much?"

Fox News' Joshua Rhett Miller, Edmund DeMarche and The Associated Press contributed to this report.