Crime /

Off-Duty Pilot Charged with 83 Counts of Attempted Murder After Attempting to Cut Engine

'We’ve got the guy that tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit,' the pilot told air traffic control in Portland

An off-duty pilot who tried to turn off the engine of an airplane mid-flight has been charged with 83 counts of attempted murder. 

The pilot – Joseph David Emerson – was riding in the jump seat in the cockpit of Alaskan Airlines Flight 2059 from Everett, Washington on Oct. 22 around 5:30 P.M. The flight, which was operated by the airline’s subsidiary Horizon Air, was bound for San Francisco but was diverted following a “credible security threat” after the man attempted “to disrupt the operation of the engines.”

“As a heads up. We’ve got the guy that tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit,” the flight’s pilot told air traffic control, per NBC News. “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,” the pilot added. 

Flight 2059 landed in Portland around 6:26 P.M. and Emerson was taken into custody by law enforcement. The Multnomah Country Sheriff’s Office booked him on 83 counts of reckless endangerment, 83 counts of attempted murder and one count of endangering an aircraft. 

In the booking records, Emerson is described as a 6’1”, white male with blue eyes. He is 44 years old.

Alaska Air Group, the parent company for Alaskan Airlines, released a statement on Oct. 23 saying “no weapons were involved” and that “the crew was able to secure the cabin without incident.”

“The incident is being investigated by law enforcement authorities,” said the airline. “All passengers onboard were reaccommodated on a later flight with a new crew and new aircraft.”

“We recognize how concerning this incident must have been and we are deeply grateful to our crew for everyone’s professionalism through this experience,” the statement continued, per View from The Wing. “This is an active investigation. We will share details as we are able. In the meantime, we ask that you respect the privacy of the crew involved and do not share crew lists or contact those involved.”

All the travelers aboard the plane were reportedly given travel vouchers for future flights. 

According to The Seattle Times, the Embraer E-175 regional jet was full, with some passengers traveling with lap infants. The flight was staffed by two pilots and two flight attendants. 

The jump seat is an additional seat in the cockpit just behind the two pilots’ chairs. Airline pilots who are not working will sometimes ride in the jump seat free of charge to return to their home base. 

The FAA is engaged with [Alaska Airline] and Horizon Air airlines and is supporting law enforcement investigations into Sunday evening’s incident aboard a Horizon Air flight,” said the Federal Aviation Administration in a statement on X. “Please contact law enforcement for further details.”

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