The pilot, who was off-duty at the time of the alleged incident, was sat in the cockpit’s jump seat, ITV News Correspondent Graham Stothard reports
An off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot travelling in the extra cockpit seat of a flight said “I’m not OK” before trying to shut off the plane’s engines, according to court documents.
Authorities in Oregon have charged Joseph David Emerson, 44, with 83 counts of attempted murder after he attempted to disable the engines, before being subdued by the crew.
Emerson said in court documents he had been struggling with depression and the recent death of a friend, and had taken psychedelic mushrooms 48 hours before the incident.
He added that he had not slept for over 40 hours, and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
‘Just to give you a heads up, we’ve got the guy that tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit’
Listen to audio from the cockpit of the Horizon air flight via Live-ATC.NET
Alaska Airlines said neither the gate agents nor flight crew noticed any signs of intoxication that might have barred him from the flight.
An FBI agent wrote in court documents that Emerson said “it was his first time taking mushrooms.”
The state of Oregon legalised psilocybin, the psychoactive chemical compound found in certain types of fungi, earlier this year.
America’s Food and Drug Administration designated it a “breakthrough therapy” in 2018 that might be used for mental health conditions or substance use disorders.
The flight, originally bound for San Francisco, was diverted to Portland, Oregon, where Emerson was taken into custody.
According to court documents, Emerson made small talk with the pilots before trying to grab two red handles that would have activated the plane’s fire suppression system and cut off fuel to its engines.
After a struggle lasting around 30 seconds, Emerson was placed in wrist restraints and seated at the back of the plane.
As the plane descended, he tried to grab the handle of an emergency exit but was stopped by a flight attendant.
The affidavit states Emerson told police: “I’m admitting to what I did. I’m not fighting any charges you want to bring against me, guys.”
‘I heard nothing until the flight attendants said we had a situation’
He informed them he thought he was having a nervous breakdown, and said: “I pulled both emergency shut off handles because I thought I was dreaming and I just wanna wake up.”
Pilots are required to undergo regular psychological screening. Emerson’s last medical exam was in September but the charging documents state he had long been struggling with depression.
Emerson was to remain in state custody pending an initial appearance in US District Court in Portland, the US attorney’s office said in a statement.
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