An unexpected incident occurred aboard a Horizon Air Embraer E175 jet (in Alaska service) on October 22. An off-duty airline pilot who was traveling in the cockpit jump seat attempted to turn off the aircraft’s engines during the flight between Everett, Washington, and San Francisco.
The employee, identified as Captain Joseph Emerson, was removed from the cabin and controlled. The reasons that led him to try to interfere in the operation of the jet, which was carrying 83 people, are not known.
Operated with the E175 registration number N660QX, delivered just four months ago, flight 2059 ended up diverted to Portland, Oregon, where the pilot was arrested by the police.
According to Alaska, he tried to “shut down the engines by engaging the Engine Fire Handle, also known as the fire suppression system”.
The fire suppression system consists of a T-handle for each engine located on the overhead panel of the flight deck. If the T-handle is fully depressed, a valve in the wing closes to shut off fuel to the engine.
“In this case, the quick reaction of our crew to reset the T-handles ensured engine power was not lost,” explained the carrier’s statement.
The pilot joined the Alaska Group in 2001 as First Officer at regional Horizon Air. In June 2012, he left the company to fly for Virgin America, but four years later the company was acquired by Alaska.
Joseph Emerson became a Captain in 2019 and, according to the airline, had the mandatory FAA medical certifications.
“All passengers on board were able to complete their journey with a new crew and aircraft”, said Alaska Airlines.