An off-duty pilot is facing multiple charges including 83 counts of attempted murder for trying to shut off engines of an Alaska Airlines plane.
The plane was flying from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco before the incident happened. Because of what Alaska Airlines described as a “credible security threat,” the flight was diverted to Portland.
Off-Duty Pilot Tried to Shut Off Plane’s Engine
The off-duty pilot was identified as 44-year-old Joseph D. Emerson. While in the cockpit, he allegedly attempted to pull the fire extinguisher handles on the engines.
“The fire suppression system consists of a T-handle for each engine; when pulled, a valve in the wing closes to shut off fuel to the engine,” according to a statement by the airline. It continued saying “After they are pulled, some residual fuel remains in the line.”
The airline praised the crew’s quick reaction to reset both handles to restore fuel to the engine. The airline said, “Our crew responded without hesitation to a difficult and highly unusual situation, and we are incredibly proud and grateful for their skillful actions.”
“I’m Not OK”
Pilots are allowed to take the cockpit “jump seat” whenever they are commuting between different airports.
Emerson initially engaged in small talk before saying “I’m not OK.” Right after, he was seen by one of the pilots grabbing the red fire handles. One of the pilots then grabbed Emerson’s wrist as Emerson “initially resisted.” On the other hand, the other pilot immediately declared an inflight emergency. One of the pilots was heard saying to the air traffic controller that Emerson was “subdued.” The pilot also said “Other than that, we want law enforcement as soon as we get on the ground and are parked.”
Emerson said to the flight attendant, “You need to cuff me right now or it’s going to be bad.”
However, while cuffed Emerson “turned towards an emergency exit door and tried to grab the handle” during descent. The affidavit says that Emerson was heard saying “I messed everything up.”
The affidavit also said, “The officer and Emerson talked about the use of psychedelic mushrooms and Emerson said it was his first-time taking mushrooms.”
He was charged with eighty-three counts of attempted murder, eighty-three counts of reckless endangerment, and one count of endangering an aircraft. Emerson pleaded not guilty to all charges on Tuesday. He is held without bail at the Multnomah County Jail.
According to the FBI, no injuries were reported during the flight.