Ex-Alaska Airlines pilot indicted on 84 charges but no attempted murder

Despite a net loss of $142 million, Alaska Airlines still repurchased $18 million of its own stock
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The former Alaska Airlines pilot who allegedly tried to shut down the engines aboard a Horizon Air Embraer E175 has been indicted. 

In Oregan, the Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced on December 5, 2023, that a grand jury indicted Joseph David Emerson, 44, on 84 charges.  

Charges relating to attempted murder were dropped, which means the former pilot faces one count of endangering aircraft in the first degree and 83 counts of recklessly endangering another person. 

On October 22, 2023, Emerson, who at the time was still an Alaska Airlines pilot, was given permission by the aircraft’s captain to travel in the cockpit’s jump-seat. 

He then allegedly reached for the red fire handles midflight, which if activated would have shut off the fuel supply to the engines. 

One of the pilots managed to grab Emerson’s wrists as he pulled the handles down, and they began wrestling with each other for around 30 seconds.   

The other pilot declared an in-flight emergency, turned the autopilot off and rerouted the aircraft to Portland. 

In an affidavit, based on interviews following the incident, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported that Emerson said he was “dreaming” when he pulled the fire handles. His attorneys have previously said he “suffered a panic attack”.  

It was also reported that Emerson had taken a small amount of Psilocybin, which is found in psychedelic mushrooms, around 48 hours before the flight.  

Responding to the grand jury indictment, Emerson’s attorneys said the attempted murder charges “were never appropriate” and he had “never intended to hurt another person or put anyone at risk”. 

“Simply put: Captain Emerson thought he was in a dream; his actions were taken in a single-minded effort to wake up from that dream and return home to his family,” the statement said. 

ABC News reported that the attorneys were “disappointed” Emerson had been indicted on the 84 charges.  

“Captain Emerson had no criminal intent, and we look forward to being able to present a fulsome defense at trial and bring forth all the facts and circumstances to a jury. Captain Emerson’s defense team is crafting a release plan and expects that he will finally return home to his family by the end of this week,” the statement added.  

Emerson is currently lodged at the Multnomah County Detention Center. He is currently scheduled to be arraigned on December 7, 2023, at 9:30 am. 

Horizon Air is a subsidiary of Alaska Airlines.  

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