Off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot accused of trying to shut down jet’s engines in-flight

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An Embraer 175 passenger jet operated by Alaska Airlines subsidiary Horizon Air (Courtesy Alaska Airlines)

A person riding in the extra seat in the cockpit of a Horizon Air passenger jet allegedly tried to shut down the engines in midflight and had to be subdued by the two pilots.

The San Francisco-bound flight on Sunday diverted to Portland, Oregon, where it was met by law enforcement officers. The Seattle Times identified the suspect as 44-year-old off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot Joe Emerson, saying he was arrested on attempted-murder and reckless-endangerment charges.

Alaska Airlines, which owns Horizon, said Monday that the crew reported “a credible security threat related to an authorized occupant in the flight deck jump seat.” The airline said in a statement that no weapons were involved.

The incident happened on a Horizon Air flight that left Everett, Washington, at 5:23 p.m. local time and landed in Portland an hour later.

One of the pilots told air traffic controllers that the man who posed the threat had been removed from the cockpit.

“We’ve got the guy that tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit. And he — doesn’t sound like he’s causing any issue in the back right now, and I think he’s subdued,” one of the pilots said on audio captured by “Other than that, we want law enforcement as soon as we get on the ground and parked.”

The incident occurred on a 76-seat Embraer 175 plane. Alaska Airlines did not immediately say how many passengers were on board.

When the jump seat, a third seat in the cockpit, is occupied it’s often filled by an off-duty pilot, but the seat can be used by other airline employees or federal safety inspectors.

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