What are the regulations and potential dangers associated with jump seats following a pilot’s attempted plane crash?

What are the regulations and potential dangers associated with jump seats following a pilot's attempted plane crash?

A pilot named Captain Joseph David Emerson, aged 44, is being held in custody in Portland, Oregon. He is facing 83 charges of attempted murder and reckless endangerment, as well as one charge of endangering an aircraft.

On October 22, 2023, Captain Emerson was a passenger in the “jump seat” on the flight deck of a Horizon Air jet, traveling off-duty from Everett, north of Seattle, to San Francisco.

He is alleged to have attempted to deactivate the engines by utilizing the plane’s engine fire-suppression system.

The event brings attention to the utilization of “jump seats” on airplanes – and the larger concern of pilots intentionally endangering passengers and crew.

What occurred with Horizon Air flight 2059?

There were a total of eighty passengers and four crew members present on the Embraer 175 plane. While flying at an altitude of 31,000 feet near Salem, the individual attempted to turn off the engines.

The team successfully restrained Captain Emerson and escorted him out of the cockpit, which was subsequently secured in compliance with regulations set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The plane was redirected to Portland, with the pilots informing air traffic controllers that they needed law enforcement upon landing and parking. Mr. Emerson was taken into custody, while the passengers were able to continue their journey to San Francisco on a separate aircraft. The original plane has since resumed operations.

Alaska Airlines owns Horizon Air. In a statement, the airline stated that Captain Emerson made an unsuccessful attempt to interfere with the engine operation. The captain and first officer of Horizon Air promptly responded and safely secured the aircraft without any issues.

The engines did not lose power even though the off-duty pilot tried to turn them off by using the engine fire handle, also referred to as the fire suppression system.

The fire suppression system includes a T-handle for every engine. When the T-handle is completely activated, a valve in the wing will close, stopping fuel flow to the engine. Thanks to our crew’s quick response in resetting the T-handles, the engines were able to maintain power.

Our team reacted promptly and bravely to a challenging and uncommon scenario, and we are extremely proud and appreciative of their expert handling.

“By following proper FAA protocols and receiving guidance from Air Traffic Control, the flight was safely rerouted to Portland.”

“During his career, Emerson consistently obtained and maintained his required FAA medical certifications as per regulatory guidelines. There were no instances where his certifications were refused, suspended, or revoked.”

What is the purpose of jump seats and who is allowed to use them?

One or two jump seats may be fitted to flight decks to provide space for for the purposes of training (including for air-traffic controllers as well as pilots and inspectors). When no passenger seats are available, they may typically be used to carry people who are:

  • Airline staff

  • flight crew
  • Airline employees who are not pilots.

Also, the airplane has jump seats for the cabin crew. These seats are usually positioned near the walls and are usually stored away, except during take-off and landing.

What is the purpose of using jump seats?

In most cases, jump seats are not utilized for official purposes. This means that only the two pilots are present in the flight deck, while the number of jump seats available in the cabin is more than the number of cabin crew members.

If the passenger cabin is at maximum capacity, it is acceptable for “non-revenue” travelers to occupy jump seats. This group includes:

  • Employees traveling as part of their job responsibilities (e.g. flight crew relocating to another airport)

  • off-duty staff
  • Relatives or companions of employees who are using complimentary or significantly reduced fares for travel.

Has a passenger in a designated seat caused any issues during a previous trip?

In 1994, a FedEx flight engineer named Auburn Calloway was on board a cargo DC10 aircraft and intentionally tried to kill the captain, first officer, and engineer in order to cause the plane to crash.

Calloway was previously charged with fabricating his flight hours and was at risk of being fired. He wielded hammers and a spear gun, which he had concealed in a guitar case, to assault the three members of the flight crew. However, they managed to subdue Calloway and successfully landed the plane, despite sustaining severe injuries.

There have been several instances where a third pilot not on duty has aided the captain and first officer.

In 1989, Captain Dennis Fitch was a passenger on United flight 232 from Denver to Chicago. The plane, a DC10, experienced a catastrophic engine failure in the tail, causing the loss of most controls. However, Captain Fitch had previously practiced controlling an aircraft using only the engine throttles on a flight simulator. Despite the challenging circumstances, he was able to successfully guide the plane to a crash landing, resulting in the survival of 184 out of 296 people on board.

On October 28, 2018, a third pilot on the flight deck of a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max, traveling from Bali to Jakarta, noticed a malfunction with the “Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System” (MCAS). The pilot then informed the captain and first officer on how to resolve the issue.

The airplane successfully landed without incident. However, the following day, the identical malfunction occurred on Lion Air flight 610 from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang. Tragically, the aircraft crashed and resulted in the deaths of 189 individuals. As a result, the Boeing 737 Max was immediately halted globally for repairs and updates to its MCAS system.

What is the prevalence of pilot suicide?

Instances of flight personnel intentionally causing their plane to crash with the intention of taking their own life and the lives of all passengers are not common. The majority of incidents of “aircraft-assisted suicides” involve smaller, private aircraft.

The most recent and notable case of a pilot intentionally causing the death of everyone on board was during Germanwings flight 9525 on March 24, 2015. Andreas Lubitz, the first officer, utilized his knowledge to prevent the captain from entering the cockpit of the Airbus A320, which he then deliberately flew into a mountain in the French Alps. He was aware that security measures implemented after September 11, 2001 allowed someone on the flight deck to have complete control.

Prior to September 11th, most commercial airplanes had a weak barrier separating the cockpit from the rest of the cabin. It was believed that the possibility of an attack on the pilots and a hijacking of the plane was highly unlikely. However, the hijackers on 9/11 managed to bypass security with small knives and gain entry to the cockpit, ultimately causing the death of the pilots and gaining control of the aircraft. In response to these acts of terrorism, airlines began implementing stronger doors that are resistant to intruders and bullets.

Only one alleged pilot suicide has killed more people: EgyptAir flight 990, flying from New York to Cairo on 31 October 1999. The Boeing 767 crashed in the North Atlantic, killing all 217 passengers and crew on board. The US safety authorities concluded the crash happened “as a result of the relief first officer’s flight control inputs” but did not ascribe a motive.

The disappearance of MH370, the Malaysia Airlines flight that vanished on March 8th, 2014, is still unknown. One possibility is that the pilot, Captain Zaharie Shah, deliberately hijacked the plane with the intention of committing suicide and taking the lives of all 239 passengers and crew on board. The Boeing 777 was on a regular trip from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it took off. After losing communication with air traffic control, the plane flew south over the Indian Ocean and ultimately crashed in an area west of Australia.

According to the MH370 Safety Investigation Report, the investigators’ final conclusion on the biggest enigma in aviation history can be found on page 443. They state, “The Team is unable to ascertain the true reason for the disappearance of MH370.”

According to a source familiar with the situation, it is believed that the aircraft will be located in the southern Indian Ocean once advancements in underwater drone technology allow for the deployment of over 100 unmanned devices to search the depths for any evidence of previous existence.

A narrative will only begin to form once divers evaluate the wreckage. However, even then, the bereaved family members may never fully understand the details of how and why their loved ones perished.

The source is from independent.co.uk.