Joseph Emerson Pilot – Who Is Alaska Airlines Hijacker?

Joseph David Emerson is a pilot who attempted to crash an Alaska airlines flight flying from Washington to Portland on October 22nd 2023.

An off-duty Emerson was in the jump seat of Alaskan Airlines flight 2059 from Everett, Washington to San Francisco when he tried shutting off the plane’s engines!

He was subdued by the quick actions of the pilot and co-pilot and the flight was forced to land rather unceremoniously just about an hour after the incident in Portland.

News reports confirm that a Joseph David Emerson, 44 years old, has been charged with 83 counts of attempted murder.

Interest in this rather unusual story has piqued and in this story we present all there is to know about pilot Joseph Emerson.

Who is Joseph Emerson?

joseph emerson alaska airlines

Joseph David Emerson is an American pilot who rose to notoriety after attempting to shut off the engines of an Alaskan Airlines flight.

Emerson lives his wife, Sarah Stretch, and two young sons in a $1.2m, four-bedroom home in Pleasant Hill in the rolling hill East of San Francisco, according to MailOnline.

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Captain Joseph David Emerson joined Alaska Air Group as a Horizon First Officer in August 2001.

In June 2012, Emerson left Horizon to join Virgin America as a pilot. 

He became an Alaska Airlines First Officer following Alaska’s acquisition of Virgin America in 2016 and then an Alaska Airlines Captain in 2019.

Throughout his career, Emerson completed his mandated FAA medical certifications in accordance with regulatory requirements, and at no point were his certifications denied, suspended or revoked.  

Joseph Emerson also known as Joe Emerson rose to public prominence in October 2023 after he allegedly attempted to shut off an Alaska airline plane’s engines mid-flight and presumably crash it.

He was restrained and handed over to Port of Portland police after the plane made a forced landing at Portland.

Flight 2059 was flying from Everett, Washington to San Francisco when the incident occurred.

Alaska Airlines addressed the isssue in a statement.

According to the statement, a regional carrier under Alaska Airlines, Horizon, faced a threat during a flight Sunday.

The crew reported “a credible security threat related to an authorized occupant in the flight deck jump seat.” 

This referred to Joseph David Emerson who had attempted to turn off the plane’s engines from his jump seat position behind the pilots.

Usually, off-duty airline pilots sit in the jump seat of the flight deck behind the pilots to fly back to their home base if seats are available. 

“The jump seat occupant unsuccessfully attempted to disrupt the operation of the engines,” the airline said in the statement. 

“The Horizon Captain and First Officer quickly responded, engine power was not lost and the crew secured the aircraft without incident.”

The pilots of the airplane also addressed the incident via audio of the plane’s cockpit communications.

“As a heads up. We’ve got the guy that tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit. It doesn’t sound like he’s got any issue in the back right now. I think he’s subdued,” the pilot of the plane told air traffic control. 

“Other than that we want law enforcement as soon as we get on the ground and parked.”

Law enforcement from Port of Portland police were on hand to arrest David Emerson immediately the flight landed.

He was booked on charges of 83 counts of attempted murder, a felony, and 83 counts of reckless endangerment.

He also faces a count of endangering an aircraft.

Emerson is being held at the Multnomah County Detention Center.

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Alaska Airlines thanked all agencies involved for their professionalism after the passengers later left on a separate flight.

“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,” Alaska Airlines said. 

Joseph Emerson pilot was known on Twitter as Joe Emerson where he can be found under the username @jophusdavid

Joe Emerson pilot

Joseph D. Emerson Arrest and Booking

Emerson told law enforcement after his arrest that he was having a nervous breakdown when the incident occured.

CNN reports he has been charged in federal court with interfering with a flight crew.

While in custody, Emerson told a police officer he became depressed about six months ago, according to an affidavit authored by an FBI agent and included alongside the federal complaint. Emerson denied taking any medications, the affidavit says, but he did discuss psychedelic mushrooms with the responding officer.

“The officer and Emerson talked about the use of psychedelic mushrooms and Emerson said it was his first-time taking mushrooms,” the affidavit says.

Emerson said he was “admitting to what I did,” per the affidavit. “I’m not fighting any charges you want to bring against me, guys,” he said.

Alaska Airlines released a statement addressing the arrest of pilot Joseph Emerson.

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.  

Joe Emerson pilot

Joseph ‘Joe’ Emerson is the off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot who has been charged with 83 counts of attempted murder after he allegedly tried to shut off the engines by pulling the fire extinguisher handles on an Alaska Airlines flight Sunday.

alaska airlines hijack

Emerson is 44 years old and licensed to fly airplanes, according to FAA records.

Other than that, very little information exists online about him.

The FBI have indicated they are investigating him, and no doubt more information about him will emerge in coming days.

The FBI said it “can assure the traveling public there is no continuing threat related to this incident.” 

Meanwhile, the FAA said it is “engaged with Alaska and Horizon airlines” and “is supporting law enforcement investigations.”

ABC News added a new layer to the story revealing a possible mental health angle.

According to Alex Stone, ABC News Radio National correspondent, Joseph Emerson made a comment to the tune of ‘I’m not right’ before attempting to kill the plane’s engines by activating the fire extinguishers.

“Our sources are telling us [Emerson] made some comment about ‘I’m not right’ and then lunged and tried to pull the fire extinguisher buttons in the cockpit which then would have killed the engines.

ABC News also added that Joseph David Emerson was scheduled to fly an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 out of San Francisco Sunday night.

“He was about to fly a Boeing 737 last night…he has a clean record. Sources are telling us that he has not been in trouble and has been with Alaska Airlines for some time, flying their mainline aircraft,” Alex Stone said.

Stone added that they are not certain of Emerson’s motive at this time aside from his comment about ‘I’m not right’ which points towards a mental health issue.

The FAA has also assuaged fears that the incident has anything to do with current world events and the Israel-Hamas war, which has spilt into the United States with the deaths of a Palestinian boy and Jewish leader Samantha Woll.

“For situational awareness and clarification, the notification we made this morning regarding the security event on the air carrier flight deck that was encountered last night is not connected in any way, shape or form to current world events,” an FAA statement strongly clarified.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines is a major American airline headquartered in SeaTac, Washington, within the Seattle metropolitan area. 

It is the fifth-largest airline in North America when measured by scheduled passengers carried. 

Alaska, together with its regional partners Horizon Air and SkyWest Airlines, operates a route network primarily focused on connecting cities along the West Coast of the United States to over 100 destinations in the contiguous United States, Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Mexico.

The airline operates out of five hubs, with its primary hub being at Seattle–Tacoma International Airport.

Alaska Airlines is a member of Oneworld, the third-largest airline alliance in the world.

As of 2020, the airline employs over 16,000 people and has been ranked by J. D. Power and Associates as having the highest customer satisfaction of the traditional airlines for twelve consecutive years.

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