Alaska Airlines Off-Duty Pilot Tries Turning Off Engines: Diverts to Portland

Authorised Person Tried Turning Engine Off: Horizon Air In Portland
Photo Credit: Johnnyw3 via Wikimedia Commons.

In a rather bizarre turn of events, an “authorised occupant” in the cockpit of Horizon Air flight AS2059 between Paine Field and San Francisco tried to turn the engines off in-flight, causing a diversion to Portland.

Incident: Authorised Person Tried Turning Engine Off: Horizon Air In Portland…

Authorised Person Tried Turning Engine Off: Horizon Air In Portland
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Horizon Air flight AS2059, which is a flight under the Alaska Airlines Group, was a routine flight between Paine Field and San Francisco, which departed at 1723 local time yesterday afternoon.

The flight was being operated by N660QX, one of the airline’s Embraer E175 aircraft in the fleet.

As per data from, this aircraft is only 0.4 years old at the time of writing, having been delivered to the airline back in June 2023.

Of that variant of aircraft, Horizon Air currently have a fleet of 41 units, of which 40 are in active service and one is parked.

AS2059 departed Paine Field at 1723 local time and proceeded south towards San Francisco, where all of a sudden, it diverted, and didn’t broadcast an emergency squawk.

The aircraft landed not long after the decision to divert into Portland, but the reasoning for this diversion does host a bizarre chain of events within itself.

As per The Messenger, it is understood that an “authorised occupant” who was allowed in the cockpit tried to switch off the engines onboard the Embraer E175 aircraft.

Upon arrival into Portland, the aircraft was met by law enforcement and an investigation is underway regarding this incident.

In the article, they were able to note an important ATC transcript from the pilot, which said:

“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, I think he’s subdued”.

According to the website as well, Alaska Airlines is declining to comment whether this person who was subdued was an employee of the group, including the Horizon Air subsidiary.

UPDATE #1 @ 1648 UK time – Understood that the “authorised occupant” was an off-duty pilot, who has been named as Joseph Emerson. He faces 83 felony counts of attempted murder & reckless endangerment following this incident.

UPDATE #2 @ 1731 UK time – ABC News reporting that the off-duty pilot attempted to pull the fire extinguisher handles, which would have shut down the engines.

UPDATE #3 @ 1753 UK time – FAA Statement on the Horizon Air incident.

UPDATE #4 @ 1922 UK time – Alaska Airlines has released it’s statement on last night’s incident:

“On Oct. 22, Alaska Airlines Flight 2059 operated by Horizon Air from Everett, WA (PAE) to San Francisco, CA (SFO) reported a credible security threat related to an off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot who was traveling in the flight deck jump seat.”

“The jump seat occupant unsuccessfully attempted to disrupt the operation of the engines.”

“The Horizon Captain and First Officer quickly responded, engine power was not lost and the crew secured the aircraft without incident.”

“Following appropriate FAA procedures and guidance from Air Traffic Control, the flight was safely diverted to Portland International Airport.”

“The jump seat occupant is currently in custody and the event is being investigated by law enforcement authorities, which includes the FBI and the Port of Portland Police Department.”

“All passengers on board were able to travel on a later flight.”

“We are grateful for the professional handling of the situation by the Horizon flight crew and appreciate our guests’ calm and patience throughout this event.”

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By James Field - Editor in Chief 5 Min Read
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