x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Pilot error

A man goes bonkers on a plane. Unfortunately for timid flyers, he happened to be the pilot.

At 30,000 feet, a crazy man starts running up and down the airplane aisle yelling about Al Qaeda attacks. If you have ever sat in the same row as a frightened flyer (or indeed, if you have been that sweaty-handed passenger yourself), it is a scenario that may have flitted through your mind. Even the most hardened globetrotter has a hidden nerve when it comes to air travel in this post-September 11 age.

Imagine the poor passengers on JetBlue Airways Flight 191 this week. Not only did a man try to beat down the cockpit door, but the pilot went AWOL at the same time - in fact, the crazy man and the pilot were one and the same. Capt Clayton Osbon had been acting erratically so his co-pilot tricked him into leaving the cockpit by recommending a bathroom break. The co-pilot then locked the door behind him, and passengers eventually subdued the errant aviator.

It certainly could have been worse. Capt Osbon had been yelling at air traffic control and told the co-pilot: "We need to take a leap of faith." Not exactly comforting words coming from the man behind the controls.

Capt Osbon has since been suspended, and we suspect that he will not be a captain for much longer. He faces charges of interfering with the cabin crew and, we hope, a psychiatric evaluation. As for the mental state of Flight 191's passengers, perhaps they might want to consider taking the train.