An off-duty pilot seated in the cockpit unsuccessfully tried to shut down a plane's engines midflight and is now charged with 83 counts of attempted murder.
Alaska Airlines Flight 2059 was flying from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco on Sunday when a passenger onboard unsuccessfully tried to "disrupt the operation of the engines." The 76-seat Embraer 175 plane was operated by Alaska Airlines subsidiary Horizon Air. The flight left Everett at 5:23 p.m. local time and emergency landed in Portland an hour later.
The suspect allegedly tried to pull the fire extinguisher handles on the engines, preliminary information obtained by investigators indicated to ABC News. The suspect was reportedly overwhelmed by flight crew and subdued and then handcuffed to a seat.
“As a heads up. We’ve got the guy that tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit. It doesn’t sound like he’s got any issue in the back right now. I think he’s subdued," one of the pilots of the plane told air traffic control in audio captured by LiveATC.com. "Other than that we want law enforcement as soon as we get on the ground and parked.”
Pilots will occasionally ride a cockpit “jump seat” when traveling in an official capacity or commuting to another airport. The suspect was en route to San Francisco, where he was scheduled to be on a flight crew of a 737, ABC News reported.
"The jump seat occupant unsuccessfully attempted to disrupt the operation of the engines," the airline said. "The Horizon Captain and First Officer quickly responded, engine power was not lost and the crew secured the aircraft without incident." Engine power, the airline said, was not lost and the crew secured the aircraft without incident.
44-year-old Joseph David Emerson was arrested by the Port of Portland Police, the law enforcement agency for the Portland International Airport in Oregon, and booked around 4 a.m. local time according to Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office booking records. No motive has been confirmed. The airline Emerson works for wasn’t immediately known.
Kieran Ramsey, FBI Portland special agent in charge, said the FBI has taken over the case and “can assure the traveling public there is no continuing threat related to this incident.” Meanwhile, the the Federal Aviation Administration said it is "engaged with Alaska and Horizon airlines and is supporting law enforcement investigations into Sunday evening’s incident aboard a Horizon Airlines flight."
Alaska Airlines said all of the passengers were able to get on later flights.
“We are grateful for the professional handling of the situation by the Horizon flight crew and appreciate our guests’ calm and patience throughout this event,” the carrier said.