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Off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot charged with attempted murder in alleged engine shutdown attempt

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Travelers wait to check-in at the Alaska Airlines counter at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in San Francisco, California.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

An Alaska Airlines

Horizon Air was operating Alaska Airlines Flight 2059, which was flying from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco before it diverted and landed safely. Pilots regularly pick up jump seats in the cockpit to commute.

“The jump seat occupant unsuccessfully attempted to disrupt the operation of the engines,” Alaska Airlines said in a statement. “The Horizon Captain and First Officer quickly responded, engine power was not lost, and the crew secured the aircraft without incident.”

A recording of the incident from LiveATC appeared to show a pilot of the flight say that the person tried to shut the engines down.

“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 issue in the back now,” according to the recording. “Other than that we want law enforcement as soon as we get on the ground and parked.”

The flight’s pilot landed the plane safely in Portland and no injuries were reported, Kieran Ramsey, FBI Portland special agent in charge, said in a statement. Ramsey said the FBI “can assure the traveling public there is no continuing threat related to this incident.”

The off-duty pilot, 44-year-old Joseph David Emerson, is in custody. He was charged with 83 counts of attempted murder, 83 counts of reckless endangerment and a count of endangering an aircraft, according to Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office booking records.

The pilots’ union didn’t immediately comment.

Alaska Airlines said all of the passengers were able to get on later flights.

“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 carrier said.

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