An Alaska Airlines pilot, Joseph David Emerson, has been charged with 83 counts of attempted murder after attempting to crash a plane during a mid-flight “mental breakdown.” The incident took place during a flight from Everett, Washington to San Francisco, California. Emerson, who was off duty at the time, tried to engage the jet’s fire-suppression system, which would have cut off the flow of fuel to the engines and likely caused a catastrophic crash.
An Alaska Airlines spokesperson confirmed that the fire-suppression system was briefly engaged but the crew acted quickly to reset the handles and restore fuel flow, preventing a disaster. The crew informed passengers of a medical emergency in the cockpit and the flight was diverted to land safely in Portland, Oregon.
Passenger Aubrey Gavello, who witnessed the incident, recalled the flight attendant announcing, “He had a mental breakdown. We needed to get him off the plane immediately.” Emerson was subdued by crew members and no one was injured during the incident.
Emerson now faces 83 counts of attempted murder in the first degree, 83 counts of recklessly endangering another person, and one count of endangering an aircraft in the first degree. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office confirmed the charges.
The incident has sparked a federal investigation into Emerson. Joshua Skule, a former FBI intelligence officer, stated that investigators would thoroughly examine Emerson’s life, including his social media, computers, and phones. Initial indications suggest that the incident was not motivated by ideology but rather tied to a mental health episode, according to an unnamed source familiar with the investigation.
Taking into account the seriousness of the charges and the potential impact on public safety, investigators will delve into Emerson’s background and conduct a comprehensive review to determine the factors that led to the incident. This will involve analyzing his social media activity, electronic devices, and speaking to individuals close to him.
The incident highlights the importance of mental health awareness and support, particularly among those in high-pressure occupations such as pilots. It also raises questions about the screening and monitoring processes for airline employees to ensure their fitness to fly. The airline industry will likely review its procedures for identifying and addressing mental health issues among pilots to prevent similar incidents in the future.
In this case, the quick action and professionalism of the Alaska Airlines crew prevented a potential disaster. The focus now is on understanding the factors behind the pilot’s actions and ensuring that appropriate measures are in place to prevent such incidents from occurring again.