Alaska Airways pilot suffered ‘illusions’ when he tried to ‘shut-down engines’

Alaska Airlines Embraer E175
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Former Alaska Airlines pilot Joseph Emerson was suffering from a ‘panic attack’ and ‘illusions’ as he allegedly tried to shut down an Embraer E175’s engines midflight, according to his lawyers. 

“While on this flight, Captain Emerson suffered a panic attack and the illusion of being in a dream. His actions during that flight were a well-meaning attempt simply to wake himself up from the dream. No harm to anyone was contemplated or intended,” a statement from Levi Merrithew Horst PC read.  

On October 22, 2023, Emerson was travelling in the flight deck jump seat from Seattle Paine Field International Airport (PAE) to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) when he reached for the red fire handles which would have shut off the fuel supply to the engines

One of the other pilots onboard the jet was able to prevent the catastrophe by wrestling Emerson away from the fire handles.  

Following the incident, the former Alaska Airlines pilot was charged by Federal Prosecutors with interfering with flight crew members plus 167 non-federal charges, including 83 counts of attempted murder.   

In the statement, seen by ABC News, Emerson’s lawyers claim that he had taken “a small amount of psilocybin”, which is found in mushrooms, about two days before the flight to mark the anniversary of a former colleague’s death. The lawyers added that he “had never taken mushrooms” before.  

Lawyers asserted that Emerson was concerned he might lose his job if he sought help for his mental health. 

He was said to be “suffering from a combination of stress, fatigue, and dehydration, as well as untreated anxiety and depression”. 

Emerson, a pilot of 20 years, was removed from service indefinitely and relieved from all duties at Alaska Airlines following the incident.

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