Key Points:

  • An off-duty pilot, identified as Joseph D. Emerson, attempted to disrupt an Alaska Airlines flight en route to San Francisco, forcing a diversion to Portland, Oregon.

  • Emerson has been charged with 83 felony counts of attempted murder, 83 counts of reckless endangerment, and one count of endangering an aircraft.

  • The FBI is investigating the incident, which is not believed to be linked to terrorism.

Off-duty pilot attempts to sabotage Alaska Airlines flight

PORTLAND — An off-duty pilot traveling as a passenger on an Alaska Airlines flight attempted to sabotage the plane's engines during a flight en route to San Francisco. The suspect, identified as Joseph D. Emerson, 44, was subdued by the flight crew and taken into custody by Port of Portland police officers. Online booking records reveal that Emerson faces multiple charges, including 83 counts of attempted murder.

Flight 2059, operated by Horizon Air, a regional carrier owned by Alaska Airlines, took off from Paine Field Airport in Everett, Washington, and reported a credible security threat related to the off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot who was in the flight deck jump seat. Emerson, in an attempt to shut down both engines, pulled the engine fire extinguisher handles. The quick reaction of the flight crew prevented the engines from failing entirely.

FBI Investigation

The flight was diverted to Portland International Airport, where Emerson, referred to as the "jump seat occupant," was taken into custody. The FBI, along with the Port of Portland, is investigating the incident, and preliminary information suggests no links to terrorism.

Passengers on the flight were unaware of the incident until an announcement was made, and they were asked to prepare for an early landing. Upon landing, the suspect was escorted off the plane by police officers.

The FBI stated that there is no continuing threat related to the incident, and no injuries were reported on Flight 2059. Additional federal charges may be forthcoming. The FAA confirmed that the incident is not connected to current world events, such as the Middle East conflict.

FAA records indicate that Emerson held a certification to fly certain aircraft, including the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737, but not the ERJ 175 used during the incident.

A neighbor described Emerson as a seemingly "really nice guy" and expressed shock at his alleged behavior.

The remaining passengers of Flight 2059 were accommodated on a later flight, and Alaska Airlines commended the professionalism of the Horizon flight crew.