Category Archives: Keep Religious Zealotry Out Of The Cockpit




Jet Blue Captain Clayton Osbon has once again validated that religious overzealousness can result in aberrant, dysfunctional behavior. Based on some of the reports that quoted his irrational verbal rambling it appears that it might have been sparked by some gremlins that may have emanated from some religious perspectives that sent him into one of those Elmer Gantry-like, possessed-by-God sermons. There are millions of people, perhaps tens-of-millions of people who are advocates and believers in the concept of Armageddon and/or the rapture. It appears that the Jet Blue Captain had possibly “gone-rapture” and was headed for his earthly exit.

Unfortunately, had he not been contained by the cabin crew and passengers he had the capability of taking everyone on the aircraft with him on his venture to his perceived glorious hereafter. The airlines, (spearheaded by United Airlines) adopted a policy called CRM (Cockpit Resource Management) about 25 years ago, since far too many of the four-strippers were afflicted with the “captain-as-God-myth,” and did really stupid things while the rest of the cockpit crew sat on their hands and said, “here we go over the cliff, but he is the captain.” CRM training played a major role on the flight deck of Jet Blue Flt #191 as the copilot took the bull by the horns and said the captain is whacked out and I will not follow him as my leader any longer. F/O Jason Dowd should be given far more plaudits for his adept handling of the situation than the media has extended to him. Unfortunately, the media will all-too-often focus on the Captain to the detriment of good journalism. Example: Everyone on planet earth knows that “Sully” Sullenberger, was the Captain on the Hudson River landing. Who knows the name of the copilot? I do, it was Jeffrey Skiles. In this Jet Blue “flipped out captain” scenario I think the media should be focusing on Jason Dowd the copilot, who took control in an exemplary fashion

Myth, superstition, and wishful thinking should not be part of the mix in the cockpit of a commercial jet and perhaps some additional evaluation of this potential problem should be considered by airline training departments. Wishful thinking and/or irrational paranoia are bad guys to be rummaging around in the heads of our professional pilots. The following is an excerpt from my book, The Rogue Aviator that elaborates on this subject:


One of the more interesting airplane anecdotes from the Ryan-aviation-early-

1980s era involved a Ryan captain nicknamed “the Reverend.” Reverend

Steve, a born-again Christian, frequently engaged in proselytizing. It was

reported that he read his Bible while attempting to penetrate a squall line of

thunderstorms. The copilot, according to the reports, worked diligently with

the airborne weather radar in order to find a soft spot through the possible

severe turbulence when the Reverend Steve, as the story goes, looked up from

his Bible and stated, “God will help us through.”

Such faith is not confined to one religion alone. A major aircraft accident

in the Middle East involved a Muslim captain engaging in prayer and

accepting that his fate would soon unite him with Allah. As the cabin crew

awaited his command to evacuate the burning aircraft, he failed to respond.

The passengers and the flight crew all died in the inferno. There are very

likely many other aircraft accidents aided and abetted by the captain

surrendering his duties to God’s will. The author suggests that, if you board

an aircraft whose pilots are referring to their religious texts rather than to their

flight manual, the only prudent course of action is a quick “one-eighty”

(reverse course) to travel via another flight.

This blog is prepared by Allen Morris/aka Ace Abbott, the author of The Rogue Aviator: in the Back Alleys of Aviation (