Passengers on an Alaska Airlines flight have come forward after an off-duty pilot attempted to intentionally crash their aircraft while in-flight.
Joseph Emerson, who is 44 years old, faced 83 charges of attempted murder for his actions on a flight from Seattle to San Francisco on Sunday. It is alleged that he attempted to disrupt the fuel supply to the engines, but was stopped by the flight crew.
The plane had to change course and land in Portland, Oregon due to the efforts of the captain and first officer to maintain the engines’ operation.
Travelers who were present on the aircraft informed ABC News that they were not promptly informed about the “security threat” mentioned by Alaska Airlines. It was only after a flight attendant made an announcement over the speaker that they were informed about the urgent need for the plane to make an immediate landing.
After the plane arrived at its destination, law enforcement officers entered the aircraft and took Mr. Emerson into custody. He was then escorted off the plane while handcuffed.
Bailey Beck, a passenger on the plane, informed SFGate that he witnessed a man, known as Mr Emerson, walking alone from the cockpit to the back of the plane. The man was then handcuffed to a railing and did not cause any disturbance from that point.
Aubrey Gavello, a fellow passenger, informed Laura Coates Live that the individual being escorted off the plane was composed and compliant.
The reason for Mr. Emerson’s supposed actions is not yet known, but witnesses reported that a flight attendant informed them he was experiencing a mental breakdown.
Aubrey Gavello informed ABC that following the man being removed from the plane, the flight attendant announced that he had experienced a mental breakdown and needed to be taken off the plane urgently.
Officials have verified that they do not suspect the occurrence was an act of terrorism or violence driven by ideology. However, uncertainties persist as Alaska Airlines declared that Mr Emerson, who has been employed with the company since 2001, had no record of medical problems.
Alaska Airlines stated that Emerson consistently fulfilled his necessary FAA medical evaluations as per guidelines, and there was never a case of his certifications being refused, halted, or withdrawn during his time in the company.
The occurrence is currently being investigated by both the FBI and the Port of Portland Police.
According to reports from the Federal Aviation Administration, which is assisting with the law enforcement inquiry, it was found that the 44-year-old did not possess the necessary qualifications to operate the ERJ 175 aircraft that was involved in the incident on Sunday.
Alaska Airlines reported that Mr. Emerson was seated in the jump seat in the cockpit during the flight, and unexpectedly attempted to turn off the plane’s engines by pulling the fire extinguisher handles.
All of the 80 individuals on the flight were unharmed in the occurrence, but Mr. Emerson has been charged with a total of 167 offenses, which include 83 charges for attempted first-degree murder, as stated by authorities.
Alaska Airlines verified that “all passengers were able to travel on a subsequent flight.”
The 44-year-old’s neighbors, who characterized him as a “kind” and “wonderful dad”, expressed their surprise upon learning the news.
According to Karen Yee’s statement to the Daily Mail, he constantly engages with the children.
She stated that he is an amazing person who is empathetic towards others.
“He was never the type of person we could picture intentionally causing harm. It’s extremely difficult for us to believe that he would purposely do something like that,” she expressed. “I can’t even imagine him doing anything that would harm another person.”
In the meantime, Ed Yee, her husband, characterized the event as “extremely surprising.”
“He appears to be a genuinely kind individual. There doesn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary about him,” he informed CNN.
In 2001, Mr. Emerson joined the Alaska Air Group as a first officer for Horizon Airlines and then transitioned to becoming a pilot for the airline in 2019.