Alaska Airlines pilot charged with attempted murder for trying to shut down plane engines mid-flight

The man, who faces 83 charges, was identified as Joseph Emerson.

An off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot who was flying as a passenger is being charged with 83 counts of attempted murder for his attempt to shut down the plane's engines mid-flight, according to Multnomah County Sheriff's Office booking records. The information was confirmed by the airline in a statement. The man was identified as Joseph Emerson.

"On Oct. 22, Alaska Airlines Flight 2059 operated by Horizon Air from Everett, WA (PAE) to San Francisco, CA (SFO) reported a credible security threat related to an off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot, identified as Captain Joseph Emerson, who was traveling in the flight deck jump seat. Captain Emerson unsuccessfully attempted to disrupt the operation of the engines," Alaska Airlines said.

'Our crew responded without hesitation to a difficult and highly unusual situation'

The airline highlighted that the Horizon captain and first officer in charge of the flight responded quickly and the crew secured the plane without incident. Likewise, the company explained that engine power was not lost despite the off-duty pilot's attempt to shut them down by activating the engine fire handle, also known as the fire suppression system.

"Our crew responded without hesitation to a difficult and highly unusual situation, and we are incredibly proud and grateful for their skillful actions," the airline explained.

Alaska Airlines detailed that Emerson is in the custody of authorities and that the case is being investigated. "Following appropriate FAA procedures and guidance from Air Traffic Control, the flight was safely diverted to Portland International Airport (PDX). Captain Emerson is currently in custody and the event is being investigated by law enforcement authorities, which includes the FBI and the Port of Portland Police Department," the company said.

It was also learned that, when questioned, the pilot confessed to having taken psychedelic mushrooms two days before and not having slept for 40 hours. The defendant expressed that he felt like he was dreaming. In addition, Emerson explained that he was suffering from a nervous breakdown, according to court documents published by several journalists covering the case.