A scary situation unfolded in the cockpit of an SFO-bound Alaska Airlines flight on Sunday, when an off-duty pilot traveling on a jump seat in the cockpit allegedly attempted to bring down the plane.
The incident happened onboard Alaska Flight 2059, which took off at 5:23 p.m. Sunday from Everett, Washington, as the New York Times reports. The flight was being operated by Alaska's regional subsidiary, Horizon Airlines, and had 80 passengers and four crew onboard.
The airline explains in a statement that it experienced "a credible security threat related to an off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot who was traveling in the flight deck jump seat."
Jump seats, the fold-down, wall-mounted seats for airline crews found in both the cockpit and cabin, are frequently used by airline employees when commuting to and from work when no more cabin space is available.
"The jump seat occupant unsuccessfully attempted to disrupt the operation of the engines," the statement continues, saying that the captain and first officer "quickly responded, engine power was not lost and the crew secured the aircraft without incident."
An audio recording posted on LiveATC.net includes an exchange between the pilot and an air traffic controller in which the pilot says, "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 issues in the back right now. I think he is subdued."
The plane then made an emergency landing in Portland.
Officers from the Port of Portland Police Department reportedly met the plane upon landing, and arrested the off-duty pilot, who's been identified as 44-year-old Joseph D. Emerson.
Emerson was booked into jail Monday by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office on over 80 counts of attempted murder.
He was also booked on suspicion of more than 80 counts of reckless endangerment, as well as a count of endangering an aircraft, which is a felony.
Earlier this year, an Alaska flight bound for SFO had to be diverted to Chicago due to a loud and unruly passenger.
Alaska said in its statement that "All passengers on board were able to travel on a later flight" back to San Francisco out of Portland.
“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," the company said.