Audio obtained from LiveATC.net revealed the details of an incident where a pilot that was not on duty allegedly attempted to interfere with a flight. Joseph Emerson, 44, was riding in the cockpit jump seat of an Alaska Airlines plane headed to San Francisco from Everett, Washington on Sunday (Oct. 22) when he allegedly attempted to activate the fire suppression system. If he had succeeded, this move would have cut the fuel supply to the engines, as the New York Post reported.
In the audio, another pilot noted that Emerson moved to the back of the plane and settled down. The employee proceeded to ask for help from law enforcement as soon as the flight landed and parked. He noted that Emerson had been handcuffed and was in the back jump seat. The plane had to make an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon.
“We’re gonna check with the flight attendant to make sure everything is running smoothly, but it seems like he settled down as soon as he… after some moments of going a little overboard,” the pilot stated.
Alaska Airlines released a statement saying that when someone pulls the emergency controls, a valve in the wing cuts the fuel supply to the engine. However, some residual fuel remains in the line after they are pulled. The company also noted that the quick reaction from the crew to restore fuel flow prevented fuel starvation.
The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office revealed that Emerson faces several charges, including 83 counts of attempted murder in addition to reckless endangerment and one count of endangering an aircraft. Mental health issues may have triggered his actions, as a passenger named Aubrey Gavello said a flight attendant announced that Emerson had a breakdown.
Jon Welte, the CEO of the Hiller Aviation Museum, told ABC7 Bay Area that airline pilots must go for medical exams every six months. He said the examination checks for any medications or mental illness issues that may interfere with cognitive function. An FAA pilot database showed that Emerson received a medical clearance last month. He is currently held at Multnomah County Detention Center in Portland as he waits for arraignment.
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