Flight Diverted to PDX Due to Pilot’s Murderous Actions

An Alaska Airlines flight was diverted to Portland, Oregon, on Sunday due to an off-duty pilot attempting to shut down the plane’s engines midflight, as confirmed by officials and a source to CBS News’ Kris Van Cleave. [1]

PDX Emergency Landing Details

The incident occurred on Alaska Airlines Flight 2059, operated by Horizon Air, according to a statement from Alaska Airlines. The flight was traveling from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco with 80 passengers and four crew members onboard.

The pilot, who was not on duty, was traveling in the flight deck jump seat. The cockpit jump seat, a third seat in the cockpit, is typically occupied by off-duty pilots, but it can also be used by other airline employees or federal safety inspectors.

The captain and first officer of Horizon detained Emerson and landed the plane just before 6:30 p.m.

An air traffic controller was informed by one of the pilots that the individual who posed a threat had been taken out of the cockpit.

According to the FBI, no injuries were reported.

The airline expressed gratitude for the professional handling of the situation by the Horizon flight crew and acknowledged the patience of its guests throughout the event. All of the passengers were accommodated on an alternate flight.

Airplane in Air

What Really Happened 

During the police interview, Joseph Emerson, a 44-year-old individual, stated that he believed he was experiencing a “nervous breakdown” and had been awake for 40 consecutive hours.

According to a separate affidavit filed on Tuesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court, Emerson informed the police that he had consumed “magic mushrooms” approximately 48 hours before the incident on the plane.

It is uncertain whether Emerson was under the influence of psychedelic mushrooms during the flight as the affidavits do not provide any evidence in either direction, apart from Emerson’s own statements to the police.

Charges Following PDX Early Landing

Emerson, 44, is facing multiple charges, including 83 counts of attempted murder, according to online jail records from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.

The airline carrier has not provided any further information regarding the security threat. Law enforcement, including the FBI, is currently conducting an investigation.

According to a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation, authorities do not believe the incident was an act of terrorism or ideologically motivated violence.

Charges Following PDX Early Landing

Seek justice and protect your rights by contacting Goldberg & Loren’s aviation lawyers today for a free consultation.


[1] Sundby, A. (2023, October 23). Alaska Airlines flight diverted, off-duty pilot Joseph Emerson arrested for trying to cut engines midflight, officials say. CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/alaska-airlines-flight-diverted-portland-oregon-jump-seat-shut-engines-down/

[2] Off-duty pilot accused of trying to shut off plane’s engines mid-flight said he was having a nervous breakdown, federal complaint shows. (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2023, from https://www.cnn.com/2023/10/24/us/alaska-airlines-disruption-off-duty-pilot-tuesday/index.html

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