An off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot traveling in a cockpit jump seat has been charged with attempted murder and reckless endangerment after attempting to turn off aircraft engines in-flight.
Alaska Airlines Pilot Charged With Attempted Murder After Trying to Disable Engines On Horizon Air Flight
44-year-old Alaska Airlines captain Joseph David Emerson assumed a jump seat position in the cockpit of a Horizon Air Embraer E-175 regional jet on Sunday, set to operate as Alaska 2059 from Paine Field in Everett, Washington (PAE) to San Francisco (SFO). Off-duty pilots are permitted to ride jumpseat in the flight deck with the approval of the flight’s captain.
Just after takeoff, Emerson allegedly tried “to disable the aircraft engines while at cruise altitude by deploying the engine fire suppressions system.” (per an internal American Airlines memo, shared by JonNYC and flagged by View From The Wing).
His action was overridden by the pilot and first officer, who were able to subdue him and remove him from the cockpit. The flight diverted to Portland, Oregon (PDX) where it was met by law enforcement officials. Emerson was purportedly cooperative after being ejected from the flight deck and not motive has been revealed for his alleged action.
Air Traffic Control audio reveals the captain onboard AS2059 reported the incident in this way:
“We’ve got the guy that tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit. It doesn’t sound like he’s got any issue in the back right now. I think he’s subdued. Other than that we want law enforcement as soon as we get on the ground and parked.”
No injuries were reported onboard, with Alaska Airlines issuing a vague statement about hte incident:
“Alaska Airlines Flight 2059 operated by Horizon Air from Everett, WA (PAE) to San Francisco, CA (SFO) reported a credible security threat related to an authorized occupant in the flight deck jump seat. The crew secured the aircraft without incident.
“Following appropriate FAA procedures and guidance from air traffic control, the flight safely diverted to Portland International Airport. The event is being investigated by law enforcement authorities.
“All passengers on board were able to travel on a later flight. We are grateful for the professional handling of the situation by the Horizon flight crew and appreciate our guests’ calm and patience throughout this event.”
The FBI has also confirmed it arrested Emerson and is investigating the incident:
“One man is under arrest on state charges in Oregon, booked by the Port of Portland Police Department, after an incident in the air on Horizon Air flight 2059 from Everett, WA to San Francisco, CA. The airplane’s pilot was able to safely land the plane at Portland International Airport around 6:25 pm on Sunday, October 22. No injuries were reported. The FBI is investigating and can assure the traveling public there is no continuing threat related to this incident.”
Emerson now faces 167 criminal counts, including 83 counts of attempted murder, 83 counts of reckless endangerment, and one count of endangering an aircraft.
What Could Have Prompted This Incident?
what prompted such a brazen incident is indeed the key question going forward, but until we have more definitive news from the FAA or Alaska Airlines, I do not think it profits us to speculate.
However, if someone knows Emerson, please do chime in with a comment below.
The shock of this incident underscores how rare events like these are and how safe the airline system is. Frankly, I am surprised there are not more incidents like this. But I am elated that the pilots so quickly corrected the attempted murder and subdued Emerson, but we really do have to wonder what possibly could have gone through his mind to put so many people at risk.