Bomb-rant pilot thought to have had a breakdown

The captain of a US airliner who had to be restrained after running through the cabin screaming about a bomb on board appeared to have suffered a mental breakdown, passengers said.

They first noticed something wrong when the JetBlue pilot came out of the cockpit, did not close the door and tried to force his way into an occupied toilet.

The captain’s co-workers tried to calm him as he became more jittery, coaxing him to the back of the plane.

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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, one of the passengers on the New York to Las Vegas flight. “You’re not just going to jump up and attack the captain.”

But four men did tackle the pilot, pinning him to the floor for more than 20 minutes and restraining him with seat belt extenders and zip tie handcuffs, while the co-pilot and an off-duty pilot who was aboard landed the plane in Amarillo, Texas.

“Clearly, he had an emotional or mental type of breakdown,” said Tony Antolino, who tackled the pilot when he tried to re-enter the cockpit. “He became almost delusional.”

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Gabriel Schonzeit, who was sitting in the third row, said the captain said there could be a bomb on board. “He started screaming about al-Qaida and possibly a bomb on the plane and Iraq and Iran and about how we were all going down.”

The airline described the incident as a “medical situation” and said the captain was taken to hospital. The Federal Aviation Administration said the co-pilot had locked the cockpit and a off-duty JetBlue captain who was a passenger on the flight took over the captain’s duties.