An off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot riding in the cockpit of a Horizon Airlines regional jet was charged with 83 counts of attempted murder after he allegedly tried to cut engine power mid-flight on route to San Francisco.
The Messenger reports Alaska Airlines pilot Joseph D. Emerson, 44, was riding in the cockpit's jumpseat of Horizon Air flight 2059 when he "unsuccessfully attempted to disrupt the operation of the engines."
One man is under arrest on state charges, booked by the Port of Portland, after an incident in the air on Horizon Air flight 2059 from Everett, Washington to San Francisco, California. See full #FBIPortland statement below: pic.twitter.com/G8vtST51ZJ— FBI Portland (@FBIPortland) October 23, 2023
On Sunday night, the flight from Everett, in suburban Seattle, to San Francisco was diverted to Portland, Oregon, where Emerson was arrested.
"The Horizon captain and first officer quickly responded, engine power was not lost and the crew secured the aircraft without incident," Alaska said
Information on Alaska Airlines Flight 2059 Operated by Horizon Air https://t.co/af3FCXggJQ— Alaska Airlines News (@AlaskaAirNews) October 23, 2023
A streaming audio network of aircraft communications called Live ATC, recorded audio from the pilots talking to air traffic controllers about the incident:
"We've got the guy that tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit and he doesn't sound like he's causing any issue in the back right now, I think he's subdued.
"We want law enforcement as soon as we get on the ground and parked."
CNN's Pete Muntean wrote on X, "The FAA is telling airlines that Sunday's incident involving an off-duty pilot who attempted to cut the engines of an Alaska Airlines flight is "not connected" to "current world events.""
NEW: The FAA is telling airlines that Sunday’s incident involving an off-duty pilot who attempted to cut the engines of an Alaska Airlines flight is "not connected" to “current world events.”— Pete Muntean (@petemuntean) October 23, 2023
Even still, the agency urged airlines and crews to "maintain vigilance."
Commercial pilots undergo rigorous medical screening by an Aviation Medical Examiner every six months to several years.
Pilots must run through a series of checklists before operating a plane, even a personal checklist called "I'm SAFE," which covers illness, medication, stress, alcohol, fatigue, and emotion.
It's unclear whether the off-duty Alaska pilot was experiencing a mental breakdown or was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. While the FAA clarified that the incident wasn't related to current global events, we still ask the question if it was a factor.