An off-duty pilot riding in the cockpit of an Alaska Airlines' Horizon Air flight bound for San Francisco International Airport (SFO) tried to crash the plane, officials say.
The San Francisco-bound flight on Sunday diverted to Portland, where it was met by law enforcement officers. The flight took off from Everett, Washington, at 5:23 p.m. and landed in Portland an hour later.
Federal officials allege Joseph David Emerson tried to shut down the engines in midflight and had to be subdued by the two pilots.
Authorities in Portland identified the man as Emerson, 44. He was being held Monday on dozens of counts of attempted murder and reckless endangerment, according to the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon.
The Port of Portland Police Department "is working closely with our partners at the FBI, TSA, FAA, and Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office," the department told The Standard in an emailed statement.
Emerson is being held in jail on suspicion of 83 counts of attempted murder, 83 counts of reckless endangerment and a single count of endangering an aircraft, according to Oregon jail records.
Alaska Airlines, which owns Horizon, said Monday that the crew reported “a credible security threat related to an authorized occupant in the flight deck jump seat.” The airline said in a statement that no weapons were involved.
"All passengers on board were able to travel on a later flight," the airline told The Standard in an emailed statement. "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.
One of the pilots told air traffic controllers that the man who posed the threat had been removed from the cockpit.
“We’ve got the guy that tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit. And he—doesn’t sound like he’s causing any issue in the back right now, and I think he’s subdued," one of the pilots said on audio captured by LiveATC.com. "Other than that, we want law enforcement as soon as we get on the ground and parked.”
The incident occurred on a 76-seat Embraer 175 plane. The FBI is investigating.
When the jump seat, a third seat in the cockpit, is occupied, it’s often filled by an off-duty pilot, but the seat can be used by other airline employees or federal safety inspectors.