An off-duty pilot is now confronted with a stunning 83 counts of attempted murder after allegedly attempting to disable the engines by activating the fire extinguisher handles on an Alaska Airlines flight, as confirmed by officials.
Unplanned Diversion: Alaska Airlines Flight Faces Credible Security Threat
The flight was originally scheduled to travel from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco but had to make a sudden diversion to Portland on Sunday night due to a “credible security threat related to an authorized occupant in the flight deck jump seat,” according to the airline.
Preliminary information from investigators suggests that the suspect tried to engage the fire extinguisher handles on the engines, as per a federal official briefed on the investigation. The flight crew managed to overpower the suspect, subduing him before handcuffing him to a seat.
Who Is Joseph David Emerson?
The suspect, identified as Joseph David Emerson, was apprehended and taken into custody, a confirmation made by the Port of Portland. Emerson now faces a total of 83 counts of attempted murder, according to the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. Additionally, he is charged with 83 counts of reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor, and a felony count of endangering an aircraft. The suspect was reportedly en route to San Francisco, where he was slated to be part of a flight crew for a 737.
Alaska Airlines clarified that the off-duty pilot was occupying the flight deck jump seat within the cockpit and made an unsuccessful attempt to disrupt the engine’s operation. Moments before the incident, he was heard saying something along the lines of “I’m not right,” according to federal sources.
The captain and first officer promptly responded to the situation, ensuring that engine power remained unaffected, and the aircraft was safely secured, the airline reported.
The flight had 80 passengers and four crew members onboard. Passenger accounts indicated that the flight attendant initially announced an emergency situation, leading to the immediate need for the plane to land. Some passengers believed it was a medical emergency, given the uncertainty surrounding the situation.
The Suspect’s Handcuffing and Removal
Upon landing, police officers handcuffed and removed the suspect from the plane. Observers noted that he appeared to be an airline employee, as he was seen wearing a lanyard and a sweater.
After the landing, the flight attendant explained to passengers that the individual had a mental breakdown, necessitating his removal from the aircraft.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has emphasized that this incident is unrelated to current world events. An investigation into the event is underway, with the FBI also confirming its involvement, reassuring the public that there is no ongoing threat related to the incident.
Emphasizing Safety Standards and Scrutiny
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg expressed gratitude for the professionalism of the flight crew and air traffic controllers, highlighting their efforts in guiding the plane safely to Portland. The FAA is offering its support to law enforcement in their response and remains committed to addressing any safety concerns that may arise from ongoing investigations.
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The Air Line Pilots Association, International, the pilots’ union, lauded the pilots and crew for safely handling the situation and affirmed its full cooperation with authorities. They also emphasized the rigorous vetting and scrutiny applied to pilots in the United States, along with a proactive approach to enhancing aviation safety and maintaining a healthy work environment for pilots. U.S. pilots are subject to continuous evaluation throughout their careers via various assessments and audits, ensuring the highest standards of safety and professionalism.