An off-duty pilot has been charged with attempting to disable the engines of an Alaska Airlines jet in mid-flight, Reuters reports. He later told police he was suffering a nervous breakdown, hadn’t slept in 40 hours and was suffering a nervous breakdown.
Joseph David Emerson, 44, was riding as a standby employee passenger in the cockpit "jump seat" of Sunday's flight from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco, when he tried to take control of the plane. After a brief scuffle inside the flight deck, Emerson was restrained by members of the cabin crew and was arrested in Portland, Oregon, where the flight was diverted and landed safely. He was charged in Oregon state court on Tuesday with 83 counts of attempted murder and a single count of endangering an aircraft. In a separate federal-court charge, Emerson faces one count of interfering with flight crew members and attendants.
Emerson told police that he had taken "magic mushrooms" for the first time, ingesting them about 48 hours before boarding the plane. The two pilots who were at the controls of Flight 2059 told investigators that Emerson had chatted with them casually, then suddenly hurled his radio headset across the cockpit and said, "I'm not OK." He then reached up and grabbed two red-colored fire-suppression handles, pulling them downward. Later, the flight crew told investigators that had Emerson was close to fully deploying the shut-off handles -- the plane was "seconds away" from being turned into a glider, they said.