JetBlue captain Clayton Osbon is removed from the plane after erratic behavior saw him locked out of the cockpit and restrained by passengers.

JetBlue captain Clayton Osbon is removed from the plane after erratic behavior saw him locked out of the cockpit and restrained by passengers. Photo: Reuters

Clayton Osbon, the JetBlue pilot arrested in March after his erratic behaviour led to the diversion of a flight, was found not guilty by reason of insanity of interfering with his flight crew.

US District Judge Mary Lou Robinson in Amarillo, Texas, made the determination yesterday after Osbon waived his right to a jury trial. The judge ordered Osbon to be taken immediately to a federal correctional institution in Fort Worth, Texas, for a mental examination, according to a court order.

The examination will determine whether he poses a danger, Assistant US Attorney Christy Lee Drake said in an interview.

"If they make the finding that he is improved, that he no longer poses a risk, the court can order him discharged under conditions," meaning he would be monitored by a probation officer, she said.

Whether Osbon may pilot a plane again is a "judgment of the court," Drake said, adding that there may be "collateral consequences" with the Federal Aviation Administration, which would determine if he will keep his pilot's license.

Barred from cockpit

Osbon's behaviour while captain of a March 27 flight from New York to Las Vegas caused his co-pilot to bar him from the cockpit, according to a federal agent's affidavit filed with a criminal complaint. After Osbon began shouting and pounding on the flight deck door, he was restrained by passengers.

Osbon entered a not guilty plea on June 28, after a previous hearing at which he was found mentally fit to stand trial by mutual agreement of the prosecution and defence.

A doctor testified today that Osbon "couldn't appreciate the quality or wrongfulness of his behavior," Drake said, which led to his agreement with prosecutors that he committed the offence of interfering with a flight crew only by reason of insanity.

A licensed psychologist, Robert Johnson, evaluated Osbon and prepared a 10-page report for the court, according to filings. The government "does not and will not contest" Johnson's conclusion that Osbon suffered from a "severe mental disease or defect" at the time he committed his offense, according to the filing.

Osbon's defense attorney, E. Dean Roper, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.

Bloomberg