If you're on a flight and there's a midair emergency whereby things quickly spin out of control, it's good to know there's a professional crew trained to make split-second decisions, as well as some strong, alert passengers on board willing to help.

That happened early this morning when Clayton Osborn, the captain of a JetBlue flight from New York to Las Vegas, became distraught and had to be restrained in what the airline simply termed a "medical situation." For those aboard the plane, however, the actual circumstances that transpired were much more dire.

When passengers saw Capt. Osborn come out of the cockpit unannounced, didn't close the door and then tried to force his way into an occupied bathroom, they knew something was not right. Fortunately, the co-pilot locked the disturbed pilot out of the cockpit to keep him away from the controls.

He tried to re-enter the cockpit, pounding on the door and shouting "bomb" and "we're going down."

After being locked out of the cockpit, the agitated captain then became the problem of crew members and passengers in the cabin. The situation reached a critical stage when Osborn ran up the aisle of the cabin screaming that "They're going to take us down!" and urging the passengers to pray.

As flight attendants struggled to keep Osborn away from the plane's emergency exit, David Gonzalez, a 50-year old former New York City corrections officer who now works for a security and surveillance company, stepped up to help. When he asked the captain what his problem was, Osborn reportedly stated, "You'd better start praying right now" and then began shouting about Iraq and Iran.

After putting the captain in a choke hold, Gonzalez, who lives in the Poconos, then replied 'I'm going to show you Iraq and Iran right now.' A group of other men soon helped Gonzalez, restraining the captain with seat belts.

Gonzalez kept a tight hold on the captain until the plane landed. Later, he said he didn't want to hurt Osborn but to just get him calm so the plane could safely land and they could get him medical assistance. Once on the ground, the scene reportedly looked like a TV SWAT show, with police swarming the plane.

Gonzalez was hailed as a hero by a number of passengers, who posed for pictures with him, but the father of five children said he doesn't consider himself a hero. He said he simply couldn't stand by while the harrowing events were unfolding in front of him.

"I got that spark. I knew I had to get involved," he said.

The 135 passengers and six crew members aboard the flight are certainly thankful he did.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com