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Off-Duty Pilot Who Tried to Shut Down Engines of Alaska Air Flight Swerves Attempted Murder Charges in Grand Jury Indictment

Off-Duty Pilot Who Tried to Shut Down Engines of Alaska Air Flight Swerves Attempted Murder Charges in Grand Jury Indictment

a plane flying in the sky

An off-duty pilot who allegedly tried to shut down both engines of an Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to San Francisco in late October has been indicted by a Grand Jury on 83 counts of recklessly endangering another person but has escaped a possible indictment of attempted murder.

Joseph Emerson faces a reckless endangerment indictment for each of the 83 passengers and crew who were onboard flight 2059 from Seattle Paine Field on October 22, 2023.

The off-duty pilot was traveling home in the cockpit of the Horizon Air-operated Embraer E75 regional jet – a practice known in the industry as ‘jump seating’ because certain authorized off-duty airline staff are allowed to travel on a spare jumpseat in the cockpit when there aren’t any free passenger seats available.

Prosecutors allege that during the flight, Emerson unexpectedly lunged towards the controls and tried to pull both of the emergency engine fire extinguishers, which would have shut them down and left the plane without any means of propulsion.

The operating pilots were, however, able to fight Emerson off and with the help of flight attendants, he was subdued and removed from the cockpit, where he reportedly then tried to open an emergency exit.

In the days leading up to the incident, Emerson had taken magic mushrooms for the first time and hadn’t slept for at least 40 hours. Emerson told police that he tried to pull the engine shut off levers because he thought he was dreaming and that by doing so, he would wake himself up.

In an interview with the New York Times that Emerson took part in while in federal custody, he said that he believed he was still in a ‘hallucinogenic state’ from taking the magic mushrooms two days before.

Along with the 83 counts of reckless endangerment of another person, Emerson has also been indicted with a single count of endangering an aircraft.

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