Alaska Airlines its regional subsidiary Horizon Air are being sued by three passengers who were aboard the Horizon Air flight from Washington to San Francisco that was diverted to Portland after an off-duty pilot flying in the cockpit “jump seat” tried to shut off the plane’s engines.
The lawsuit has been filed in a Washington State Court and although only three passengers started it, it is meant to be a class action suit, on behalf of all the passengers on flight 2059, according to Reuters. Besides damages for physical and psychological harm, the plaintiffs are also asking Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air to publicly explain why Joseph David Emerson, the off-duty pilot, was not subject to a thorough security screening before boarding the flight.
Additionally, the passengers are asking the court to mandate Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air to thoroughly examine all flight crew and jump seat passengers before a flight, including their “mental health status”. The specific mental health clause is probably as a result of Emerson declaring for police he had been suffering with depression for 6 months and had taken “magic mushrooms” about 48 hours before the flight.
Emerson was flying in the cockpit’s “jump seat”, which sometimes occurs when pilots must travel for official duties or relay to a different airport. Mid-flight, he pulled the plane’s T-handle fire extinguishers, the statement explained. These contain a valve that will “shut off fuel to the engine.” This would have caused fuel starvation and engine failure, with the plane at cruising altitude.
The plane reported a “credible security threat related to an off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot who was traveling in the flight deck jump seat,” the airline’s statement said. The engines did not fail however, thanks to the quick reaction of the captain and first officer to “reset the handles” and “some residual fuel remains in the line,” according to the airline.
Flight crew were quick to restrain Emerson, who was taken into custody upon landing at Portland International Airport. He has been charged with 83 felony counts of attempted murder, one for each person on board the plane besides him, 83 counts of reckless endangerment and one count of endangering an aircraft.