Horizon Air Flight 2059 Diverts Due to Off-Duty Pilot’s Actions
In an unusual turn of events, a routine Horizon Air flight from Everett to San Francisco was disrupted when an off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot allegedly attempted to shut down the engines in flight. The incident unfolded mid-air, leading to the diversion of the aircraft to Portland. The off-duty pilot, identified as Joseph David Emerson, was taken into custody and is now facing serious charges, including suspicion of attempted murder.
Alaska Airlines Pilot Attempted Sabotage
The flight, operated by Horizon Air, was an Embraer E175 regional jet travelling from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco. While en route, an off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot, Joseph David Emerson, who was riding in a jump seat on the flight deck, allegedly attempted to disable the aircraft’s engines in-flight. This alarming action led to a swift and coordinated response from the flight crew.
Despite the attempt to disrupt the engines, the flight crew managed to maintain engine power and safety. The decision was made to divert the flight to Portland, where it landed without further incident. The off-duty pilot was promptly subdued and taken into custody by Port of Portland police.
Joseph Emerson’s Background
Joseph David Emerson, a 44-year-old California resident with ties to Seattle, has been a commercial airline pilot since 2001. He has been flying for Alaska Airlines since 2016. Emerson’s motive for attempting to disable the aircraft remains unclear.
FAA Notice and Investigation
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an alert regarding this “significant security event.” The notice revealed that the off-duty pilot tried to activate the engine fire suppression system in an attempt to disable the aircraft’s engines while at cruise altitude. The quick response from the flight crew prevented a catastrophic situation. The investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Passengers on board the flight described a tense and fearful atmosphere as the situation unfolded. The aircraft made a steep descent, and passengers witnessed law enforcement officers escorting the off-duty pilot from the plane upon landing in Portland.
Alaska Airlines Response
Alaska Air Group, the parent company of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, praised the Horizon Air flight crew for their professional handling of the situation and acknowledged the passengers for their calmness during the event. Passengers received travel vouchers for their delayed journey.
Intentional attempts to disrupt flights by pilots are exceedingly rare in the aviation industry, which places a strong emphasis on pilot training, evaluation, and scrutiny. The Air Line Pilots Association emphasized that pilots in North America undergo continuous evaluation and oversight to ensure safety.
Joseph David Emerson’s arraignment is scheduled for the Multnomah County Justice Center in Portland. Prosecutors and Emerson’s attorney will present their arguments to the judge, who will decide whether he remains in custody.