Off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot indicted in connection with October flight

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SEATTLE - An off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot accused of trying to disable a jet’s engines during an October flight was indicted by a grand jury, a district attorney said on Dec 5.

The Multnomah County, Oregon grand jury charged Joseph Emerson with one count of endangering an aircraft and 83 other counts of recklessly endangering another person but decided on Dec 4 that Joseph Emerson did not attempt to injure anyone, and therefore declined to charge him with the 83 counts of attempted murder originally sought by the state, the pilot’s lawyer said in a statement.

Emerson, who was riding as a standby employee passenger in the cockpit “jump seat” of the Oct 22 Horizon Air flight, en route from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco, when the airborne altercation occurred, authorities said.

After a brief scuffle inside the flight deck with the captain and first officer, Emerson ended up restrained by members of the cabin crew and was arrested in Portland, Oregon, where the flight was diverted and landed safely.

Emerson told police afterward he was suffering a nervous breakdown and had not slept in 40 hours.

Lawyers for Emerson say he never intended to hurt another person or put anyone at risk - “he just wanted to return home to his wife and children”.

The lawyers added they are “crafting a release plan and expect that he will finally return home to his family by the end of this week”.

Emerson has also been charged in US District Court in connection with the incident and a hearing on his detention is set for Wednesday.

The incident sparked new concerns about pilot mental health.

The Federal Aviation Administration said last month it is naming a pilot mental health committee to provide recommendations to address barriers preventing pilots from reporting mental health issues while the National Transportation Safety Board is convening a forum on pilot mental health on Wednesday.

Emerson came close to ...

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