Pleasant Hill off-duty pilot tries to shut down plane, facing 167 charges

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An Alaska Airlines made an emergency landing at Portland International Airport after a “credible threat” on board. 

The suspect, identified as an off-duty pilot, is facing 167 charges. 

Officials with the Port of Portland identified the suspect as Joseph D. Emerson, 44. 

Emerson was taken into custody after Flight 2059 was diverted to PDX. 

The airline said in a statement that no weapons were involved.

Joseph Emerson

Emerson faces 83 counts of first-degree attempted murder, 83 counts of reckless endangerment, and one count of endangering an aircraft.

According to Alaska Airlines, the flight was headed from Everett Washington to San Francisco. 

The airline said an off-duty pilot, later identified as Emerson, who was sitting in the jump seat caused disturbed in the cockpit of the plane and “attempted to disrupt the operation of the engines.” 

The crew managed to secure the plane, and Alaska Airlines said they worked with air traffic control to divert the flight to PDX.

One of the pilots told air traffic controllers that the man who posed the threat had been removed from the cockpit.

“We’ve got the guy that tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit. And he — doesn’t sound like he’s causing any issue in the back right now, and I think he’s subdued,” one of the pilots said on audio captured by LiveATC.com. “Other than that, we want law enforcement as soon as we get on the ground and parked.”

The FBI office in Portland said it was investigating “and can assure the traveling public there is no continuing threat related to this incident.”

The Federal Aviation Administration said it was helping law enforcement investigations, but declined further comment about the incident.

According to FAA records, Emerson holds a license to fly airline planes. It was not immediately certain which airline he worked for.


Charlene is a Bay Area journalist who hails from the small community of Fresno. Drawing from her experience writing for her college paper, Charlene continues to advocate for free press and local journalism. She also volunteers in all the beach cleanups she can because she loves the water.