Off-Duty Pilot Tries To Turn Off Engines, Charged With 83 Attempted Murders

( – An off-duty pilot for Alaska Airlines has been charged with 83 counts of reckless endangerment and 83 felony counts of attempted murder after he attempted to shut down the engines of a plane in flight.

Joseph David Emerson, who is 44 years old, has pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying that he was suffering from a nervous breakdown and claims that he told the crew that he needed to be restrained. He also claimed to be sleep deprived by as much as 40 hours and discussed taking magic mushrooms. In addition, Emerson said that he pulled the dangerous stunt because he thought he was “dreaming” and just wanted to “wake up.”

Ostensibly, as a courtesy to a fellow pilot, the captain of the Alaska Airlines had Emerson in the cockpit with them, with Emerson seated in the jump seat. Prosecutors said that Emerson was engaged in “casual conversation” with the pilots in the cockpit when he said, “I’m not OK,” and then suddenly tried to grab the two red emergency fire handles. The handles – called T-handles – are used to activate the emergency fire suppression system for the aircraft, which also prevents more fuel from going into the plane’s engines.

The whole incident took just 90 seconds, according to the complaint against Emerson. The suspect was put in wrist restraints and put in the rear of the plane after he allegedly told a flight attendant that he was kicked out of the cockpit and said that “you need to cuff me right now or it’s going to be bad.”

Alaska Airlines lauded its staff and crew on the flight, saying in a statement that the “quick reaction of our crew” allowed the T-handles to be reset and prevent the engines from shutting down.

The flight, which was originally headed to San Francisco, California from Everett, Washington, was forced to divert Portland, Oregon due to the incident. Authorities also said that Emerson was also supposed to be onboard a 737 that would be leaving San Francisco.

Alaska Airlines has relieved Emerson of all duties from the airline and has removed him from service indefinitely.

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