According to court filings, the off-duty US pilot who attempted to shut down a plane’s engine mid-flight over the weekend has consumed magic mushrooms and feared he was experiencing a mental breakdown.
On Sunday, pilots dragged Joseph Emerson out of the cockpit after he went for controls that would have depleted the plane’s fuel and transformed it into a glider.
Emerson, who claimed authorities he hadn’t slept in 40 hours, also attempted to unlock the emergency exit in the back of the plane and was detained by cabin staff during an emergency landing.
“I pulled both emergency shutoff handles because I thought I was dreaming and I just want to wake up,” Emerson said to police, according to a criminal complaint.
The investigating officer and Emerson “talked about the use of psychedelic mushrooms, and Emerson said it was his first time taking mushrooms.”
The 44-Year-Old Was Detained On Sunday Evening Following an Emergency Landing by Alaska Airlines in Portland
Emerson had boarded the Horizon Air aircraft between Everett, Washington, and San Francisco, sitting in the jump seat of the cockpit, as is airline procedure for nonworking crew.
After talking with the pilots, “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,” according to the Department of Justice.
“After a brief physical struggle with the pilots, Emerson exited the cockpit.”
According to Alaska Airlines, the pilots responded promptly to reverse the controls, and the plane landed safely.
“Flight attendants placed Emerson in wrist restraints and seated him in the rear of the aircraft,” according to the Department of Justice.
“During the descent of the plane, Emerson attempted to grab the handle of an emergency exit.” He was stopped by a flight attendant who placed her hands on top of his.”
Emerson Faces a Federal Allegation of Interfering with Flight Crew Members and Attendants
Emerson faces a federal allegation of interfering with flight crew members and attendants, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon.
In Oregon, he faces 83 counts of attempted murder, 83 counts of reckless endangerment, and one count of endangering an aircraft.
During a brief court appearance in Portland on Tuesday, he pled not guilty to these counts, according to US media.
An audio recording of the event was made available by Live ATC, a service that preserves interactions between pilots and air traffic controllers.
“We’ve got the guy that tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit,” the pilot went on to say. “And he doesn’t sound like he’s causing any issue in the back right now.
“I think he’s subdued. Other than that, yeah, we want law enforcement as soon as we get on the ground and parked,” the pilot stated.
According to Alaska Airlines, Emerson has been “removed from service indefinitely and relieved of all duties.”