Off-Duty Pilot’s Engine Shutoff Attempt Thwarted Midair

( – In 1999, Egyptair pilot Gamil el-Batouty intentionally crashed Flight 990 in a final moment of revenge, killing all 217 people aboard. A brief scan of headlines may have led some readers to believe that a well-covered Alaska Airlines incident from October 22nd involved a pilot with a death wish similar to that of el-Batouty.

Based on the information that has been reported thus far, and despite the fact that over 80 people were said to have nearly been killed, the jump seat-riding pilot in question does not appear to have necessarily been intent on suicide. For those who never looked beyond the headlines, 44-year-old Joseph Emerson was dead-heading on a San Francisco-bound flight out of Washington.

While the plane was at cruising altitude, the off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot suddenly and without warning allegedly attempted to engage both engines’ emergency shutoff levers.

He was prevented from doing so by the pilot and crew and removed from the cockpit.

In the audio that has been released, the on-duty pilot helming the plane can be heard describing the incident with ground control and requesting for law enforcement to be waiting for them on the ground. The plane was allowed to make an emergency landing in Portland, and once off the plane, Emerson told authorities he was dealing with a combination of mental health factors.

To alleviate a bout of severe depression, Emerson explained that he had taken psilocybin mushrooms about two days before the incident. According to what he allegedly told investigators, he had also gone about the same amount of time without sleep. Both of these factors could contribute to hallucinations or delusions.

He “requested medical attention,” according to the police report, and further said he pulled the shutoff levers because he thought he “was dreaming.” The consequences for Emerson’s alleged actions will be left up to a judge or jury, but until a sentence is passed, he has been charged with 80+ counts of the attempted variety of murder.

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