Alaska Airlines Pilot Had Mental Breakdown Mid-Flight

The Alaska Airlines pilot, who tried to shut down the engines of a plane full of passengers was said to have experienced a mid-flight “mental breakdown.” He was known by neighbors as a loving father and dedicated husband.

Joseph Emerson, age 44, was not on duty when he was in the cockpit jump seat during a Washington-to-San Francisco flight on Sunday. Allegedly, he made a sudden move for the controls, trying to activate the fire suppression system on the plane.

This action could have resulted in fuel being cut off from the engines, potentially leading to the plane’s descent.

The flight’s captain and first officer successfully subdued Emerson and executed an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon. Subsequently, the flight crew candidly informed the 83 passengers on board about the incident.

Passenger Aubrey Gavello said to ABC News, “The flight attendant got back on the speaker and said, plain and simple, ‘He had a mental breakdown. We needed to get him off the plane immediately.’”

Alaska Airlines verified the incident, confirming that the plane’s power remained uninterrupted, and all passengers and crew safely landed.

Upon landing, Emerson was apprehended and faced a wide range of charges, including 83 counts of attempted murder.

In his Pleasant Hill neighborhood, located just outside of San Francisco, neighbors of the married father of two were left bewildered by the news of the incident.

Emerson’s next-door neighbor Karen Yee said, “It is just really shocking, disturbing news. They are excellent neighbors. He is a fantastic father. He plays with the kids all the time. He’s very friendly. He’s just a great guy.”

She continued, “We have a son with special needs, and he’s very good to him. We just couldn’t imagine him doing anything to hurt someone.”

A different neighbor, elderly Air Force veteran Lou Rossi, mentioned that he frequently had conversations with Emerson about airplanes and jet engines.

Rossi said, “All I could do is vouch for his character. I’ve helped him do things around his house. He does a lot of stuff with his kids. I can’t say one word that would be derogatory towards him at all.”

He continued, “I watched the news all the time, and I see things happen in neighborhoods where people say they could never believe someone would do something like this. All I could tell you is he is a really nice man, and his wife, Sarah, is a really nice lady, and they never, ever even remotely made me think anything negative about them.”

In addition to the attempted murder charges, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office has also filed 83 counts of recklessly endangering another person against Emerson, along with one count for endangering an aircraft in the first degree.

Emerson is currently in custody at the Multnomah County Detention Center in Portland, awaiting his arraignment.