After allegedly attempting to crash a passenger plane during a trip on Sunday night, an off-duty pilot has been charged with 83 counts of attempted murder.
According to an airline statement, the suspect was seated behind the captain and first officer in the cockpit of an Alaska Airlines flight.
The suspect was identified as Joseph David Emerson, 44, in a police booking record.
The airplane was carrying 80 people from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco, California.
Officials explained that the plane was redirected to Portland, Oregon, and the man was apprehended without incident.
Alaska Airlines stated in a statement that the off-duty pilot was traveling in the flight deck jump seat when he “unsuccessfully attempted to disrupt the operation of the engines.”
Alaska Airlines Flight 2059 crew members reported the incident to air traffic control.
“We’ve got the guy who tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit, and he doesn’t sound like he’s causing any issues in the back right now,” one of the pilots was heard saying in an air traffic control audio tape.
“I think he’s subdued,” the pilot continued. He asked for police assistance “as soon as we get on the ground and park.”
Horizon Air’s flight was scheduled to depart at 17:25 local time and arrive in San Francisco at 19:30.
The flight, however, was rerouted to Portland and ultimately took off to its original destination at 19:18.
According to passenger Aubrey Gavello, everyone on board had no idea anything was amiss with the aircraft until the flight attendant said that the jet needed to land urgently, citing a medical emergency.
According to Ms. Gavello, she overheard a flight attendant telling the suspect, “We’re going to be fine; it’s OK; we’ll get you off the plane.”
“So I really thought it was a serious medical emergency,” she went on to say.
According to another traveler, the incident was handled efficiently and the passengers were unaware of the danger.
Alaska Airlines said in a statement that all customers on board were allowed to travel on a later trip.
“We are grateful for the professional handling of the situation by the Horizon flight crew and appreciate our guests’ calm and patience throughout this event,” the airline said in a statement.
The incident is currently being investigated by the Port of Portland Police Department and the FBI, according to Alaska Airlines.
In a statement, the FBI said that it was looking into the incident and that it “can assure the traveling public that there is no continuing threat related to this incident.”
Mr. Emerson faces 83 counts of reckless endangerment and one act of endangering an aircraft, in addition to the attempted murder accusations. While the inquiry is ongoing, he is being held at the Multnomah County Detention Center.
Officials said they didn’t know when he’d be arraigned.
The Federal Aviation Administration informed US airlines on Monday that the incident was “not connected in any way, shape or form, to current world events.”