Crime /

Alaska Airlines Pilot Enters Not Guilty Plea After Attempt to Cut Engines

Joseph David Emerson has reportedly told police he has history of depression and took psychedelic mushrooms two days before the flight

New details have emerged about the Alaska Airlines pilot who tried to cut the engine of a San Francisco-bound flight.

Joseph David Emerson entered a not guilty plea while appearing in Multnomah County Circuit Court in Oregon. Emerson was charged with 83 counts of attempted murder, 83 counts of reckless endangerment, and one count of endangering an aircraft.

The Oct. 22 flight departed from Everett, Washington just around 5:30 P.M. with Emerson, who was off duty at the time, riding in the cockpit’s jump seat. Sometime after taking off, the 44-year-old suddenly said “I am not OK” and threw his headset across the cockpit. Emerson then reached for two handles that would have deployed the plane’s fire suppressant system and shut down the engine. 

He had to be physically restrained by the pilots before being removed from the cockpit, which was then locked. Emerson then told flight attendants, “You need to cuff me or it’s going to be bad.”

“During the flight’s descent, flight attendants told police that Emerson tried to reach for the plane’s emergency exit handle before they stopped him,” reports People Magazine.

The flight attendants told police Emerson told them he “tried to kill everybody” and that he “messed everything up.” 

He was taken into custody once the plane made an emergency stop in Portland.

Emerson reportedly told law enforcement he had been struggling with depression for the last six years, had taken psychedelic mushrooms 48 hours before boarding the Embraer 175 plane, and had not slept in 40 hours. He said he was having a “nervous breakdown.”

“I pulled both emergency shut off handles because I thought I was dreaming and I just wanna wake up,” Emerson said, according to the federal complaint. 

In their reports, police noted Emerson neither appeared to be intoxicated at the time of his interview nor did gate attendants or the flight crew notice any signs that he was impaired. He was scheduled to join another flight crew in California.

In addition to the pilots and flight attendants, there were 80 passengers aboard the flight. They were all rebooked and given travel vouchers for future flights.

Alaskan Airlines officials said they are “deeply disturbed” by what they have learned about the incident. 

We are deeply proud of our Horizon flight crew and their quick actions both in the flight deck and in the rear of the aircraft,” said the airline in a statement to ABC News. “Working together, consistent with their training, they performed their critical roles exceptionally well, representing the best of their profession.”

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