An off-duty pilot traveling in the extra seat inside the cabin of a passenger plane Horizon Air He tried to turn off the engines in mid-flight and had to be subdued by the crew, according to one of the pilots who operated the aircraft.
Authorities in Oregon identified the man as Joseph David Emerson, 44 years old. He was being held Monday on 83 counts of attempted murder and reckless endangerment, respectively, and an additional count of endangering an aircraft, according to the Multnomah County Police Department in Oregon.
Sunday’s flight bound for San Francisco was diverted to Portland, Oregon, where it was met by Port of Portland officers, who detained Emerson.
Alaska Airlines, owner of regional airline Horizon, did not identify Emerson, but said Monday that the threat was from one of its pilots who was off duty and authorized to fly in the extra seat in the cabin.
The airline noted that the captain and co-pilot reacted quickly, “engine power was not lost and the crew secured the aircraft without incident”. Alaska said in a statement that no weapons were involved.
One of the pilots informed air traffic controllers that the man posing the threat had already been removed from the cockpit.
“We took the guy who tried to turn off the engines out of the cabin. And it doesn’t seem like he’s causing any problems back there, and I think he’s subdued,” said one of the pilots in the audio captured on LiveATC.com. “Other than that, we want the authorities as soon as we touch down and park.”
The FBI office in Portland said it is already investigating what happened “and we can assure travelers that there is no ongoing threat related to this incident.”
The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA, for its initials in English), said it is cooperating with police investigations but declined to provide additional comments on the incident.
According to FAA records, Emerson has a commercial airline flight license. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer.
There have been crashes that investigators believe were deliberately caused by the pilots. Authorities said the co-pilot of a Germanwings plane that crashed into the French Alps in 2015 had practiced putting the plane into a dive.
In 2018, a Horizon Air agent stole an empty plane from Seattle International Airport and crashed it into an islet in Puget Sound after being pursued by military aircraft that came out to intercept the plane. The man told air traffic controllers that he “wasn’t actually planning on landing” and described himself as “a broken man.”
The incident occurred aboard an Embraer 175 aircraft with capacity for 76 passengers that departed from Everett, Washington, at 5:23 p.m. and landed in Portland an hour later. Alaska Airlines did not immediately disclose the number of passengers on board.
Alaska said the passengers continued their journey to San Francisco on another flight.
The third cabin seat is usually occupied by an off-duty pilot, but may also be used by other airline employees or federal safety inspectors.