Off-duty pilot accused of attempting to crash an Alaska Airlines flight has been charged with 83 counts of attempted murder

44-year-old pilot, Joseph D. Emerson has been charged with 83 counts of attempted murder, after he allegedly tried to crash a passenger jet during a flight on Sunday night, October 22.

The off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after he allegedly tried to disable one of the airline’s jet engines during a flight.

The flight was on its way from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco, California, with 80 passengers aboard. It was diverted to Portland, Oregon, and the suspect was subdued without incident, officials said.

In a statement, Alaska Airlines said the off-duty pilot was travelling in the flight deck jump seat when he “unsuccessfully attempted to disrupt the operation of the engines.” Crew members on Alaska Airlines Flight 2059 reported the incident to air traffic control.

In a recording of air traffic control communication, one of the pilots was heard saying: “We’ve got the guy that tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit, and he doesn’t sound like he’s causing any issue in the back right now. I think he’s subdued.” He requested police presence “as soon as we get on the ground and parked”.

All passengers were later able to fly to San Francisco with a new crew and aircraft, the airline said, noting it is “reaching out to each of them individually to discuss their experience and check in on their well-being.”

The incident is now being investigated by the Port of Portland Police Department and the FBI, Alaska Airlines said. In a statement, the FBI confirmed it was investigating and said it “can assure the travelling public there is no continuing threat related to this incident”.

In addition to the attempted murder charges, Mr Emerson also faces 83 counts of reckless endangerment and one count of endangering an aircraft. He was lodged at Multnomah County Detention Center while the investigation continues. Officials said they were unsure when he would be arraigned.

Emerson was hired by Horizon Air in 2001 and has since worked at Virgin America and then Alaska Airlines.  Authorities do not believe the incident was an act of terrorism or ideologically motivated violence, a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation told CNN’s Josh Campbell. The source noted the suspect may face additional federal charges.


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