Off-duty pilot accused of trying to crash Alaska Airlines flight


An off-duty pilot has been charged with 83 counts of attempted murder after he allegedly tried to crash a plane during a flight on Sunday.

An Alaska Airlines flight bound for San Francisco was diverted to Portland, Oregon, after the man, inside the flight deck, attempted to disable the aircraft engines.

The suspect, 44-year-old Joseph David Emerson, was also charged with endangering an airplane, according to Multnomah County Sheriff's Office booking information, after being arrested by Port of Portland police.

Alaska Airlines Flight 2059 operated by Horizon Air from Everett, Washington, was diverted after reporting a credible security threat, the airline said.

The Federal Aviation Administration told airlines the accused sought to disable the engines on the Embraer 175 regional jet by deploying the fire suppression system and added the crew was able to subdue him and remove him from the flight deck.

The engines were never disabled, Alaska said.

Port of Portland police officers met the flight and took the subject into custody without incident, and said the investigation is ongoing.

An FAA pilot database shows Emerson is listed as a certified pilot who received a medical clearance last month.

Adam Silverthorne, president of California-based NRI Flying Club, said the incident is inconsistent with the kind and methodical family man he knew several years ago when Emerson was a club member and provided some flight instruction. A club newsletter mentioned Emerson was at NRI in 2016.

"To say that it was out of character would be a huge understatement," Silverthorne said by phone. "It's bonkers."

Alaska Airlines said all passengers on board were able to travel on a later flight.

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