In what could have been a catastrophic occasion, the Alaska Airlines pilot who recently attempted to shut down the engines of a passenger-filled aircraft was reportedly having a “mental breakdown” in the air.
Joseph Emerson, 44, was off-duty while riding in the cockpit jump seat of Alaska Airlines Flight 2059. Upon taking off from Everett, Washington, the aircraft’s regional carrier, Horizon Air, reported a “security threat related to an off-duty Alaskan Airlines pilot, identified as Captain Joseph Emerson, who was traveling in the flight deck jump seat.”
Emerson is said to have leaped for the aircraft’s controls and tried to activate the fire suppression system onboard. If such a move would have succeeded, the aircraft could have plummeted straight to the ground, as reported by the New York Post.
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“The fire suppression system consists of a T-handle for each engine; when pulled, a valve in the wing closes to shut off fuel to the engine,” Alaska Airlines said in a statement to CNN. “After they are pulled, some residual fuel remains in the line.”
Emerson was unable to do anything harmful since he was restrained by the flight’s captain and first officer. Moments later, Flight 2059 was able to conduct an emergency landing safely at Portland International Airport.
After landing, the flight crew explained the situation to the 83 passengers on board.
“The flight attendant got back on the speaker and said, plain and simple, ‘He had a mental breakdown. We needed to get him off the plane immediately,’” Alaska Airlines passenger Aubrey Gavello told ABC News.
Alaska Airlines later confirmed the incident, pointing out that no one was harmed during the flight, nor was the aircraft damaged.
Emerson was detained at the Multnomah County Detention Center and faces 83 felony counts of attempted murder, 83 counts of reckless endangerment and one count of endangering an aircraft, Yahoo News reported. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is currently investigating the incident.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced it would be supporting law enforcement in the investigation, adding that the incident appears to have no relation to “current world events,” presumably referring to the distress in the Middle East between Hamas, a terrorist organization, and Israel.