A former Alaska Airlines pilots who faces 83 counts of attempted murder for attempting to shut down engines mid-flight is now telling his side of the story, arguing his depression coupled with the mushrooms he consumed proved a very harmful combination.
Ex-Alaska Airlines Pilot Joseph Emerson Shares His Side Of The Story
The New York Times paints a sympathetic picture of Joseph Emerson, the pilot accused of attempted murder for an in-flight incident on Horizon Air between Seattle and San Francisco in which he was riding in the flight deck. New details and insights are revealed.
I do encourage you to read The NY Times story…it is quite riveting.
But here’s the TLDR version with my own commentary:
- Emerson battled depression for years but never sought an official diagnosis or anti-depressant medication because such medication would have automatically suspended him from piloting: pilots on anti-depressants are prohibited from piloting during a monitoring period that can stretch several months
- When his best friend died in 2018 in a freak incident in Hawaii, he plunged into depression
- He recently transitioned from an Airbus to Boeing aircraft and took on an extra role as a safety representative for Alaska pilots in SFO, keeping him away from home for most of the summer
- A gathering of his friends to commemorate the life of his best friend on the weekend before the in-flight incident is when Emerson consumed mushrooms (first time in his life) along with alcohol
- The mushrooms had a severely harmful effect on him, prompting a tidal wave of guilt and fear and the idea that he was dreaming
- Convinced he was in a dream, he tried to kill the engines onboard and crash the aircraft so that he would wake up from his dream
- He asked the flight attendants several times if he was dreaming and claimed he also tried to open the emergency exit door in order to wake up
- While he was restrained in the rear galley, he still had some movement and grabbed a pot of coffee and consumed it directly from the pot, again hoping to wake up
- Text messages sent before, during, and after the incident suggest he was indeed convinced he was dreaming
- In an airport holding room, he stripped naked, urinated on himself, and masturbated in an attempt to “wake up.”
- Presented with a phone to contact his attorney (he waived his Miranda rights at the outset), he called his wife instead and began singing Boyz II Men’s “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.”
- It was only five days after consuming the mushrooms that Emerson claims he finally woke up and no longer felt he was living in a dream
This is either the work of a genius spin doctor attorney or else, and I suspect this is more likely, a sad story and also an indictment on the system in which pilots are perversely incentivized to hide their ailments or secretly self-medicate.
Emerson says, “I don’t know if I’ll ever fly an airplane again. I really don’t. And I had a moment where that kind of became obvious. And I had to grieve that.” I think we can all grieve that. Actions have consequences and Emerson may be a great husband, father, and even pilot, but the incident should render him perfectly ineligible to ever serve as commercial pilot again.
> Read More About This Incident:
- Who Is Joseph David Emerson, Alaska Airlines Pilot Accused Of Attempted Murder?
- Alaska Airlines Pilot Accused Of Attempted Murder Claims He Was High On Psychedelic Mushrooms, Had Not Slept In 40 Hours
- Alaska Airlines Pilot Charged With 83 Counts Of Attempted Murder After Malicious Act In Cockpit
- Passengers Commence Class Action Lawsuit Against Alaska Airlines For Mushroom Pilot Antics