JetBlue pilot who grew up in Mequon charged with interfering with crew

CREATED Mar 28, 2012 - UPDATED: Mar 28, 2012

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MILWAUKEE - 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.

Clayton Osbon, the JetBlue pilot who yelled "they're going to take us down!" to passengers on the plane, is from Mequon, according to a man who said he was a childhood friend of Osbon.

"I went to school with him.  He went to University School in Milwaukee," said Fritz Wilmanns to Newsradio 620 WTMJ's Jay Sorgi.

"I knew him for a long while, knew his father."

Wilmanns called Osbon a good kid who loves flying. 

"He was a joker, had a good sense of humor."

According to Wilmanns, they flew together a couple times, and Osbon went to two different pilot schools in our area.

"Every since he was a kid, he always loved flying, thought that was something to do.  He was really good."

Wilmanns says that in his 20's, Osbon wasn't affected by stressful situations, or by world events.

"As most kids, 20-something, you really wouldn't talk much politics.  There are other things you'd talk about, girls, what you were going to do on Saturday nights, that type of thing.  He was a pretty normal guy."

TODAY'S TMJ4's Steve Chamraz reports that Osbon has a home on Washington Island in Door County.  He now lives in Georgia.

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."

Passengers wrestled Osbon to the ground after he left the cockpit and later sprinted down the cabin yelling and urging everyone to pray. The plane made an emergency landing in Amarillo, Texas. No one on board was seriously hurt.

The charges against Osbon, 49, were filed in Texas. The resident of Richmond Hill, Ga., was being held Wednesday at Northwest Texas Healthcare System in Amarillo and remains under a medical evaluation.

Under federal law, a conviction for interference with a flight crew or attendants can bring up to 20 years in prison. The offense is defined as assaulting or intimidating the crew, interfering with its duties or diminishes its ability to do operate the plane.