Criminal Complaint of Alaska Airlines Jumpseat Pilot Released

Criminal Complaint of Alaska Airlines Jumpseat Pilot Released
Johnnyw3, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

In the last few hours, the criminal complaint of the Alaska Airlines jumpseat pilot who tried to turn off both engines over Portland has been released.

The pilot in question is Joseph Emerson, who is currently awaiting trial for 83 counts of attempted murder and 83 counts of reckless endangerment following the events of AS2059 over Portland.

Without further ado, let’s get into it…

Criminal Complaint of Alaska Airlines Jumpseat Pilot Released…

Criminal Complaint of Alaska Airlines Jumpseat Pilot Released
Pandaeast17, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The criminal complaint involving the off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot who attempted to shut off both engines on AS2059 over Portland noted a statement of probable cause, which identified a few key elements behind this.

Initially, Mr. Emerson had engaged with pilots in general conversation, stating that he had worked for the airline for 10 years.

Then, in flight, he mentioned that he wasn’t “okay” and proceeded to reach for the fire extinguisher leavers in the cockpit, which would have disabled the engine’s in their entirety.

From there, the pilots in command started to wrestle the Alaska Airlines jumpseat pilot away from the levers and following a 90 second process, he was told to leave the cockpit.


Upon exiting the cockpit, it is understood flight attendants observed him trying to open up one of the aircraft doors, with such crew engaging with Emerson to keep him distracted.

Following this, he was placed in a set of flex handcuffs onboard the aircraft as part of keeping him restrained.

When the Alaska Airlines flight landed into Portland, law enforcement were on hand to detain Emerson and take him into custody.

In the police interview, Emerson stated to investigators that he hadn’t slept in around 40 hours at the time, and stated that he had developed depression around six months prior and had talked about the use of psychedelic mushrooms.

He also waived his right to an attorney and said in the interview: “I’m admitting to what I did. I’m not fighting any charges you want to bring against me, guys”.

This has no doubt brought into question the debate surrounding pilots and mental health, especially with Emerson’s record at Alaska Airlines not noting depression previously.

Looking ahead, all eyes will be on the outcome of the case against Emerson, as well as what conversations surrounding this incident will look like.

Update #1 @ 2046 UK time…

Alaska Airlines has released a detailed statement following the criminal complaint being released today:

“Alaska Airlines is committed to sharing as much information as we can while respecting the ongoing federal and state criminal investigations and court proceedings.”

“We have reviewed the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Criminal Complaint pertaining to Captain Joseph Emerson and, like many, are deeply disturbed by what we have learned.  

“On Oct. 22, Emerson approached Horizon Air Gate Agents overseeing the boarding process for Flight 2059.”

“Following well-established, FAA-mandated practices to authorize a jump-seat passenger, our Gate Agent confirmed that Emerson was an off-duty pilot for Alaska Airlines.”

“He was approved to join the flight as a passenger and was seated in the flight deck jump seat. All Gate Agents and Flight Attendants are trained to identify signs and symptoms of impairment.  

“At no time during the check-in or boarding process did our Gate Agents or flight crew observe any signs of impairment that would have led them to prevent Emerson from flying on Flight 2059.”

“The details in the DOJ affidavit describing the actions of our flight crew are consistent with our understanding of what occurred based on debriefings with each member of the flight crew.”

“Upon exiting the flight deck, both Flight Attendants confirmed that Emerson was escorted by a Flight Attendant to the rear of the aircraft where Emerson was placed in wrist restraints and belted into the aft jump seat.”

“Our crew also confirmed that Emerson attempted to grab the handle of the emergency exit during the aircraft’s descent before being stopped by a Flight Attendant.”      

“The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has a mandatory drug testing program for on-duty crew members that is administered by all airlines, including Alaska and Horizon consistent with our zero-tolerance policy for any substance abuse.”

“This can include random testing before or after a flight, as well as reasonable suspicion testing of on-duty Pilots and Flight Attendants.”    

“On Oct. 22, Emerson was removed from service indefinitely and relieved from all duties at Alaska Airlines. Consistent with our pilots’ collective bargaining agreement, we are consulting with our partners in labor regarding his employment status.”  

“We are deeply proud of our Horizon flight crew and their quick actions both in the flight deck and in the rear of the aircraft. Working together, consistent with their training, they performed their critical roles exceptionally well, representing the best of their profession.”  

This remains a developing story.

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By James Field - Editor in Chief 6 Min Read
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