PORTLAND, Ore. – A flight that departed from the Everett, Washington and was headed toward San Francisco was diverted to Portland, Oregon, over a “credible security threat” Sunday. A suspect has been arrested and booked on more than 150 charges, officials acknowledged.
“An off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot taking a ride Sunday in the jump seat of a flight out of Everett attempted to shut down the engines inflight and had to be subdued, the pilot in charge is heard saying in a recording of the exchange with air traffic controllers,” the Seattle Times reported.
The pilot on the Horizon Air flight said in a calm voice while communicating with Portland air traffic control, “I’ll just give you a heads-up. We’ve got the guy that tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit. It doesn’t seem like he’s causing any issue at the back. I think he’s subdued.”
Once the air traffic controller coordinated the plane for the unscheduled landing in Portland, the Horizon pilot said, “We want law enforcement as soon as we get on the ground and parked.”
The off-duty pilot was taken into custody following the emergency landing in Portland and charged with a total of 167 crimes, including 83 counts of attempted murder, Fox Business reported on Monday.
“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 authorized occupant in the flight deck jump seat. The crew secured the aircraft without incident,” Alaska Airlines said in a statement to Fox Business.
The FAA distributed a notice too all U.S. airlines on its Domestic Events alert network providing another detail on what the administration called a “significant security event,” according to the Seattle Times.
The “jump seat passenger” attempted “to disable aircraft engines while at cruise altitude by deploying the engine fire suppression system. The crew was able to subdue the suspect and [he] was removed from the flight deck.”
Alaska Air Group — the parent company of Alaska Airlines and its regional subsidiary Horizon Air — issued a statement on Monday that said, “The Horizon Captain and First Officer quickly responded, engine power was not lost, and the crew secured the aircraft without incident.”
“Following appropriate FAA procedures and guidance from air traffic control, the flight safely diverted to Portland International Airport. The event is being investigated by law enforcement authorities,” the airline added. “All passengers on board were able to travel on a later flight. 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 event remains under investigation by law enforcement, no further details will be provided at this time,” the FAA concluded.
The Portland Field Office of the FBI confirmed it was investigating and noted the suspect was arrested and preliminarily booked on state charges.
“One man is under arrest on state charges in Oregon, booked by the Port of Portland Police Department, after an incident in the air on Horizon Air flight 2059 from Everett, WA to San Francisco, CA,” the FBI’s Portland Field Office said in a statement obtained by Fox Business. “The airplane’s pilot was able to safely land the plane at Portland International Airport around 6:25pm on Sunday, October 22. No injuries were reported. The FBI is investigating and can assure the traveling public there is no continuing threat related to this incident.”
Neither state nor federal officials offered more details regarding the off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot who was reportedly arrested.
However, online jail records show Joseph David Emerson, 44, was taken into custody by the Port of Portland Police and booked into Multnomah County Jail shortly after 4 a.m. Monday on 167 charges, which include 83 counts of attempted murder, 83 counts of reckless endangerment and one count of endangering an aircraft, Fox Business reported.
The flight crew told passengers Emerson suffered a “mental breakdown” during the flight on Sunday. (Joseph Emerson/Facebook)
The suspect ultimately charged in the case had been seated in the jump seat on the flight deck just behind the captain and first officer flying the Embraer E-175 regional jet. It’s customary for airline employees to hitch a free ride back to their home base if a seat is available and sometimes chat with the pilot and flight crew during the flight.