US Pilot Who Tried To Shut Down Plane Engine Mid-Air Avoids Attempted Murder Charge

An off-duty US pilot who tried to shut down the engines of a commercial passenger plane in mid-flight has been indicted on 84 counts.

US Pilot Who Tried To Shut Down Plane Engine Mid-Air Avoids Attempted Murder Charge

Joseph Emerson, the off-duty pilot, was sitting behind the captain in the cockpit.

A grand jury in Portland, Oregon has indicted an off-duty pilot, identified as Joseph Emerson, on 84 counts of recklessly endangering another person and one count of endangering aircraft. The charges stem from an incident in October 2023, when Emerson allegedly attempted to turn off the engines of a Horizon Air flight from Everett, Washington to San Francisco.

Emerson was initially arrested and charged with attempted murder, but the grand jury did not indict him on that charge. He is currently facing a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of all counts.

Also Read | US Pilot Who Tried To Shut Down Engine Mid-Flight Had "Mental Breakdown": Passenger

The incident occurred on October 23, 2023, when Emerson, who was not a member of the flight crew, was sitting in the cockpit jump seat. According to prosecutors, Emerson reached for the engine controls and attempted to shut down the engines. The flight crew was able to regain control of the aircraft and safely land the plane in San Francisco.

"Emerson attempted to grab and pull two red fire handles that would have activated the plane's emergency fire suppression system and cut off fuel to its engines," the Justice Department said at the time.

"After a brief physical struggle with the pilots, Emerson exited the cockpit." 

He was arrested after the emergency landing.

In an interview from the jail where he was being held, the pilot told the New York Times he had not intended to hurt anyone, but had pulled the handles in an effort to jolt himself from a hallucinogenic state that began when he took mushrooms two days earlier.

"I pulled both emergency shutoff handles because I thought I was dreaming and I just want to wake up," Emerson told investigating police, according to a criminal complaint.

(With inputs from AFP)