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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Edward Helmore and agencies

US pilot charged with attempted murder for ‘trying to shut down’ plane’s engines

Alaska Airlines plane
The Alaska Airlines flight was diverted on Sunday after reporting a credible security threat. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

An Alaska Airlines flight bound for San Francisco was reportedly diverted to Portland, Oregon, after an off-duty pilot inside the cockpit attempted to disable the aircraft engines.

Alaska Airlines flight number 2059 operated by Horizon Air from Everett, Washington, was diverted on Sunday after reporting a credible security threat, according to a Federal Aviation Administration statement.

The FAA told airlines in a notice seen by Reuters that the individual at the center of the case sought to disable the engines on the Embraer 175 regional jet by deploying the fire suppression system. The statement added the crew was able to subdue the man and remove him from the flight deck.

“I’ll just give you a heads-up. We’ve got the guy that tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit,” the pilot told FAA air traffic control, according to audio posted by LiveATC. “It doesn’t sound like he’s causing any issue at the back. I think he’s subdued.

“We want law enforcement as soon as we get on the ground and parked.”

The Seattle Times, which covers the area where Horizon is based, was the first to report that the passenger in question was an off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot.

A statement from the Multnomah county sheriff’s office said only that a 44-year-old man was booked on 83 counts of attempted murder and endangering an airplane. The number of attempted murder counts relates to the passengers and crew members on the flight.

News reports, including from CNN, later identified the arrested man as Joseph Emerson.

The FAA told airlines in a separate notice on Monday the case “is not connected in any way, shape or form to current world events”. But the notice said it is “always good practice to maintain vigilance”.

An Alaska Airlines statement said the captain and first officer “quickly responded” to the emergency, saying engine power was not lost and that the crew regained control of the plane without incident.

The airline also said: “All passengers on board were able to travel on a later flight.

“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.”

Reuters contributed reporting.

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