SALEM: Friends and relatives of the co-pilot of JetBlue Airways Flight 191 say he doesn’t want to be considered a hero — but that’s exactly what many are calling him.
Pilots train for a whole range of in-flight mishaps, including sick passengers, emergency landings and terrorist attacks. But Jason Dowd faced the rarest of scenarios: deciding whether to lock his incapacitated captain out of the cockpit and call for an emergency landing after Clayton Osbon became unruly and had to be subdued by passengers.
Dowd doesn’t consider himself a hero, relatives said Thursday. But his actions on board Tuesday’s flight were not a surprise to friends and family.
“I’m glad for those people he was the co-pilot that day,” said Dowd’s mother-in-law, Ruth Ann Kostal.
Dowd, who lives in his hometown of Salem, in Columbiana County, with his wife and their two young children, hasn’t been able to come home yet because he’s still being interviewed by federal authorities in New York, Kostal said.
Dowd is staying out of the public eye, but a wave of overnight fame — much like “Miracle on the Hudson” Capt. Chesley Sullenberger — probably awaits. JetBlue says the decision on whether to go public is up to him, but the airline is not commenting more out of respect for his privacy. Public relations experts say there are big pros and cons to going public, like what “Sully” and his co-captain Jeff Skiles experienced in the aftermath of their emergency landing in the Hudson River.
“For some folks, it’s a lot to deal with — especially all at once,” said Dr. Ron Bishop, a professor of culture and communication at Drexel University in Philadelphia. “It seems given all the outlets and different means in which we communicate, the attention paid to a person in that situation is ramped up considerably.”
According to court documents, Osbon became increasingly incoherent on board the Las Vegas-bound flight Tuesday, and Dowd was “really worried” when Osbon told him “we need to take a leap of faith.” Concerned about Osbon’s behavior, Dowd suggested they invite an off-duty JetBlue captain who was flying as a passenger to come into the cockpit, but instead, Osbon left the cockpit and later sprinted down the cabin yelling jumbled remarks about Sept. 11 and Iran, documents and witnesses say.
Passengers wrestled Osbon to the ground, and Dowd diverted the flight from New York to Amarillo, Texas.
Federal prosecutors have charged Osbon, 49, with interfering with a flight crew and he is under medical evaluation at an Amarillo hospital.