Off-Duty Alaska Pilot Who Tried To Shut Off Plane Engines Mid-Flight Says He Took Psychedelic Mushrooms

An Alaska airlines plane seen at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on January 11, 2023. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)
US-TRAVEL-AIR-PLANE An Alaska airlines plane seen at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on January 11, 2023. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)

OAN’s Abril Elfi 
6:00 PM – Tuesday, October 24, 2023

An off-duty pilot who is facing 83 attempted murder charges after trying to stop the engines of a plane mid-air claimed that he had previously taken psychedelics.


According to court records released Tuesday, an off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot stated he ingested “magic mushrooms” approximately 48 hours before officials allege he tried to shut down a plane’s engines mid-flight. 

An affidavit filed by an Oregon prosecutor, in the aftermath of Sunday’s midair flight onboard a San Francisco-bound flight, Joseph Emerson told investigators that he thought he was dreaming and wanted to wake up.

Emerson, 44, pleaded not guilty in state court on Tuesday afternoon to 83 counts of attempted murder and one count of endangering an aircraft. In addition to the felonies, he pleaded not guilty to 83 misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment.

Federal prosecutors stated that Emerson tried to seize the handle of an emergency exit while flight attendants were holding him. 

The United States Attorney’s Office in Oregon revealed in a statement that he was charged in federal court with one count of interfering with flight crew members and attendants.

According to a flight attendant, Emerson said he “tried to kill everybody.”

The FBI affidavit stated that the off-duty pilot claimed he thought he was having a “nervous breakdown” and that he hadn’t slept in 40 hours. Emerson also reportedly told an officer that he had been depressed for six years and that a friend had recently died.

“I don’t understand why you’re showing me so much kindness, I’m obviously f—-d up,” Emerson told the officer. “I messed everything up.”

However, an officer stated that Emerson didn’t appear to be “outwardly under the influence of intoxicants.”

On Sunday, Emerson was seated in the jump seat of Alaska Airlines Flight 2059 from Everett, Washington, when he reportedly attempted to trigger the plane’s emergency fire suppression system, which would have cut off fuel to the engines, according to prosecutors.

Before to the incident, he and the flight’s pilots were casually conversing in the cockpit, as one of the pilots told investigators. 

Records state that Emerson then hurled his headset across the cockpit and screamed, “I am not okay.” He then grasped and pulled on the two red knobs, which would have activated the suppression system. 

The second pilot said that Emerson was unable to pull all the way down on the handles because the pilots were wrestling with him.

According to the records, Emerson and the pilots struggled in the cockpit for around 25 seconds until Emerson settled down and was asked to leave the cockpit after around 90 seconds, with the pilots closing the door behind him.

The crew called the flight attendants and informed them that Emerson was “losing it,” according to the records. 

Emerson was then taken to the back of the plane by a flight attendant and strolled there calmly, informing one flight attendant that he “just got kicked out of the flight deck.”

“You need to cuff me right now or it’s going to be bad,” Emerson told the flight attendant.

Flight personnel restrained Emerson’s wrists and sat him in the back of the plane. According to authorities, Emerson attempted to seize the handle of an emergency exit as the jet was descending to Portland’s airport. To stop him, a flight attendant placed her hands on his.

Alaska Airlines released a statement on Tuesday saying they are “deeply disturbed” by the revelations and that Emerson did not appear to be impaired prior to flight.

“At no time during the check-in or boarding process did our Gate Agents or flight crew observe any signs of impairment that would have led them to prevent Emerson from flying,” the airline said.

Emerson now faces more than 160 state charges including attempted murder and reckless endangerment.

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