Alaska Airlines In Hot Water Over Off-Duty Pilot’s Actions

Alaska Airlines is now in hot water after three passengers filed a class action lawsuit against the carrier on behalf of themselves and 76 other passengers over an incident that occurred on Oct. 22, 2023, which put the lives of the passengers in great peril after an off-duty pilot tried to shut down the plane’s engines mid-air.

The lawsuit from the passengers, who had been traveling from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco, California, comes after their lives were put in peril by off-duty pilot Joseph David Emerson, who sprang up from his cockpit “jump seat” and reportedly tried to initiate an emergency engine shutdown mid-flight, as reported by Newsmax.

Emerson’s efforts were, thankfully, prevented by the flight’s pilot and co-pilot.

Emerson is now facing a slew of charges, including attempted murder and interfering with flight crew members as well as attendants. The off-duty pilot told investigators that he was suffering from a “breakdown” at the time of the incident.

“The airlines need a wake-up call. We understand that most pilots are heroes every day for safely operating our airliners. But they are not immune from sleeplessness, drinking, drugs, or a mental health crisis,” an attorney for Washington law firm Stritmatter Kessler Koehler Moore, Daniel Cameron, said in a press release.

“Airlines are charged with the lives of passengers and, by law, have the highest duty of care,” Cameron added.

Cameron continued his statement by saying that airlines should always ensure that their pilots can fulfill their duties responsibly and precisely before every flight is initiated.

“Emerson’s statements while in the air and shortly after his arrest show that had the airlines here done so, he would never have been allowed aboard. Our clients suffered needlessly as a result. Only luck prevented it from becoming a mass disaster,” the attorney said.

Emerson said that before his actions, he had been depressed and had not slept in nearly two days before adding that he had taken psychedelic mushrooms about 48 hours before the incident.

“Pilots who ride in a cockpit jump seat may be called upon in an emergency. Prior tragedies show pilots have knowledge that can lead them to cause disasters intentionally,” the Washington law firm said in its press release.

“However, neither Alaska Airlines nor Horizon Air has explained any effort it took shortly before Emerson boarded to question or otherwise screen him about any condition that would disqualify him from being in the cockpit at the time or piloting the aircraft in an emergency,” it added.