December 2, 2023

An off-duty pilot who was in a leap seat within the cockpit of an Alaska Airways flight on Sunday was charged with greater than 80 counts of tried homicide after he tried to chop gasoline to the engines, prompting the airplane to divert to Portland, Ore., the authorities stated.

Flight 2059, operated by Horizon Airways, an Alaska Airways regional subsidiary, left Everett, Wash., round 5:23 p.m. and was headed to San Francisco when it reported “a reputable safety risk associated to an off-duty Alaska Airways pilot who was touring within the flight deck leap seat,” Alaska Airways stated in a press release on Monday.

An airline spokeswoman stated that the off-duty pilot tried to deploy the airplane’s hearth suppression system, which incorporates handles that, when pulled, shut valves within the wings, shutting off gasoline to the engines.

“After they’re pulled, some residual gasoline stays within the line, and the short response of our crew to reset the handles restored gasoline circulate and prevented gasoline hunger,” Alaska Airways stated.

One of many airplane’s pilots informed an air site visitors controller that “we’ve received the man that attempted to close the engines down out of the cockpit, and he doesn’t sound like he’s inflicting points within the again proper now,” based on an audio recording posted on LiveATC.internet, which shares dwell and archived recordings of air-traffic-control radio transmissions.

“I feel he’s subdued,” the pilot added.

The Port of Portland Police Division stated in a press release that the flight crew “was in a position to detain the topic and the flight landed safely at Portland Worldwide Airport simply earlier than 6:30 p.m.”

The person was taken into custody with out incident. The division recognized him as Joseph D. Emerson.

In response to the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Workplace, Mr. Emerson, 44, was booked into jail on Monday morning on greater than 80 counts of tried homicide, a felony; greater than 80 counts of reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor; and one rely of endangering an plane, a felony.

4 crew members and 80 passengers had been on the flight, Alaska Airways stated.

A passenger, Aubrey Gavello, informed ABC News that after the person was taken off the airplane, “the flight attendant received again on the speaker and stated, plain and easy: ‘He had a psychological breakdown. We would have liked to get him off the airplane instantly.’”

Mr. Emerson, of Nice Hill, Calif., was scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday, based on courtroom information. It was not instantly clear if he had a lawyer. Messages left at a telephone quantity listed beneath his identify weren’t instantly answered on Monday, when sheriff’s workplace information indicated he was nonetheless in jail.

Michael Jernigan, who was a business airline captain for greater than twenty years earlier than he retired from Alaska Airways final 12 months, stated it was frequent apply for off-duty pilots to hitch a journey within the cockpit leap seat when shuttling to and from work.

He stated he “by no means apprehensive about all of it.”

“Pilots behave themselves — they’ve some huge cash and time invested of their craft,” Mr. Jernigan stated.

As a leap seat passenger, he stated, he would keep quiet when the airplane was under 10,000 ft. When it began cruising at increased altitudes, he stated, he would typically chat with the pilots, lots of whom he received to know effectively through the years.

He stated he may solely speculate about what might need prompted an off-duty pilot to attempt to disrupt a flight. The episode, he stated, was “very, very unusual.”

The Air Line Pilots Affiliation, a union that represents business airline pilots, counseled “the short {and professional} response of the 2 pilots and whole flight crew in securing the flight deck and touchdown the plane safely.”

“The security of the flying public and our crews is on the basis of every thing we do, and we’re totally cooperating with authorities as they examine this incident,” the affiliation stated in a press release.

The union stated that airline pilots in North America work in “some of the extremely vetted and scrutinized careers, and for good purpose.”

Pilots in america, the union stated, are evaluated all through their careers by coaching, medical exams and different applications, and are subjected to random flight checks by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The F.B.I. in Portland stated in a statement that no accidents had been reported on the flight and that the company, which is investigating, “can guarantee the touring public there is no such thing as a persevering with risk.”

F.A.A. information point out that Mr. Emerson obtained his airline transport pilot certificates, permitting him to function a captain on business airline flights, on July 10.

The F.A.A. stated it was working with investigators and referred inquiries to the native authorities.

Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, stated in a statement on social media that he was grateful to the flight crew and air site visitors controllers who “stepped as much as information this airplane safely to Portland.” He stated the F.A.A. would study “any security issues for the longer term that emerge from investigations.”

Niraj Chokshi contributed reporting and Kirsten Noyes contributed analysis.

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