UNITED STATES NEWS

Judge says ex-Alaska Airlines pilot who tried to cut plane’s engines can be released before trial

Dec 7, 2023, 11:21 AM

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An ex-Alaska Airlines pilot accused of trying to cut the engines of a passenger flight while off-duty and riding in an extra seat in the cockpit can be released from jail pending trial, an Oregon judge said Thursday.

Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Ryan made the decision as Joseph Emerson pleaded not guilty to reduced charges of reckless endangerment; he previously faced attempted murder charges.

Emerson, of Pleasant Hill, California, has also pleaded not guilty to a federal charge of interfering with a flight crew, and the judge in that case also agreed that he could be released pending trial.

The release conditions agreed to by defense attorneys and prosecutors in the state case include that Emerson post a $50,000 bond, undergo mental health services, stay away from drugs and alcohol, and not come within 30 feet (9 meters) of an operable aircraft.

Emerson is accused of trying to cut the engines of a Horizon Air flight from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco on Oct. 22 while riding in the cockpit as an off-duty pilot.

He was subdued by the flight crew and the plane was diverted to Portland, Oregon, where it landed safely with more than 80 people on board.

According to charging documents, Emerson told Port of Portland police following his arrest that he had been struggling with depression, that a friend had recently died and that he had taken psychedelic mushrooms about 48 hours before he attempted to cut the engines. He also said he had not slept in more than 40 hours, according to the document.

The averted disaster renewed attention on cockpit safety and the mental fitness of those allowed in them.

United States News

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Judge says ex-Alaska Airlines pilot who tried to cut plane’s engines can be released before trial