An Alaska Airlines flight traveling from Everett, Washington to San Francisco, California was diverted to Portland, Oregon on Sunday night due to a “credible security threat.” The airline confirmed that the threat was related to an “authorized occupant” in the flight deck jump seat.
Passengers on board Flight 2059, which was operated by Horizon Air, were alerted to the incident by the crew, who assured them that the situation was under control. The plane made a safe landing at Portland International Airport, but not before causing some panic among passengers.
The man responsible for the threat has since been identified as an off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot. According to reports, the man attempted to disable the plane’s engines while it was airborne. He has been charged with over 80 counts of attempted murder.
The FBI is currently investigating the incident and has confirmed that there is no indication of terrorism. The suspect, identified as 44-year-old Joseph David Emerson, was arrested by the Port of Portland and charged with 167 counts, including attempted murder, reckless endangerment, and endangering an aircraft.
The FBI also issued a statement to assure the public that there is no ongoing threat related to this incident. However, out of caution, American Airlines pilots have been warned to maintain heightened situational awareness.
It is not uncommon for airline employees to hitch a free ride back to their home base if a seat is available and occasionally chat with the pilot and flight crew during their ride. The suspect was sitting in the jumper seat on the flight deck, just behind the captain and first officer, when he attempted to disable the engines.
The working pilot quickly notified Portland air traffic controllers of the situation and requested law enforcement upon landing. According to audio of the exchange, the suspect was subdued and did not cause any other issues during the flight.
There are currently no details about the motive or any further details about the suspect’s actions during the flight. The FAA has sent a security notice to U.S. carriers as a precautionary measure, warning them of a “significant security event” that occurred on a U.S. air carrier involving a jump seat passenger attempting to disable the aircraft’s engines.
The safety of passengers and crew is always the top priority for airlines, and this incident serves as a reminder of the potential for security threats even with authorized individuals on board. The incident is still under investigation, and further updates will be provided as more information becomes available.
All passengers on board Flight 2059 were able to travel on a later flight. Alaska Airlines has expressed gratitude for the professional handling of the situation by the Horizon flight crew and praised the passengers for their calm and patience throughout the ordeal. The airline has assured customers that their safety and security is their topmost concern.