For two decades, Joseph D. Emerson had a successful career as an airline pilot.
After joining the Alaska Air Group in 2001 as a first officer, before becoming a pilot.
But, on Sunday, something suddenly chanegd when the pilot was involved in an incident that has shocked people who know him to the core.
While travelling in the flight deck jump seat in the cockpit of a plane flying from Seattle to San Francisco, the 44-year-old allegedly attempted to cut off fuel to the engines.
No one was hurt in the incident, authorities said, but the FBI is now working with the Port of Portland police to investigate the incident.
Many questions remain unanswered as to what led Mr Emerson to allegedly attempt to crash the plane mid-flight.
Here’s what we know so far:
What happened on the flight?
Authorities said Mr Emerson, who was off-duty at the time, was traveling in the flight deck jump seat in the cockpit when he suddenly tried to shut down both of the plane’s engines by pulling the fire extinguisher handles.
The 44-year-old was then subdued by flight crew as the captain and first officer intervened to keep the engines running.
The flight, which was travelling from Seattle to San Francisco, was diverted to Portland, and all 80 passengers on board were able to board a new plane.
Passengers who were on board the plane told ABC News that they were not immediately alerted to what Alaska Airlines called the “security threat”, until a flight attendant told them over the speaker that there was “an emergency situation and the plane needed to land immediately”.
Once the plane landed, police boarded the aircraft and arrested Mr Emerson, escorting him off the plane handcuffed.
Aubrey Gavello, one of the passengers on the plane, told Laura Coates Live the suspect was calm and cooperative as he was escorted off the plane.
Who is Joseph D. Emerson?
Joseph D. Emerson was taken into custody and hit with 167 charges, including 83 counts of first-degree attempted murder, 83 counts of reckless endangerment and one count of endangering an aircraft, according to authorities.
His motive for the incident remains unclear.
Mr Emerson was a pilot with Alaska Airlines.
He first joined the Alaska Air Group in 2001 as a first officer with Horizon before becoming a pilot with the airline in 2019.
Neighbours of the 44-year-old told The Daily Mail he lives with his wife and two young sons in California.
He was described by neighbours as a “friendly” and “fantastic father”.
“He plays with the kids all the time,” Karen Yee told the outlet.
“He’s just a great guy. He’s very understanding of other people,” she said.
“We just couldn’t imagine him doing anything to hurt someone. It’s very hard for us to believe that he would do anything intentionally like that,” she added. “I can’t fathom him doing anything that would hurt anyone.”
Meanwhile, her husband Ed Yee described the incident as “very shocking”.
“He seems like a really nice guy. Nothing abnormal about him,” he told CNN.
What was the motive?
It is not known why Mr Emerson allegedly attempted to crash the plane.
Authorities do not believe the incident was an act of terrorism or ideologically-motivated violence, according to CNN.
Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines said Mr Emerson did not have a history of medical issues.
“Throughout his career, Emerson completed his mandated FAA medical certifications in accordance with regulatory requirements, and at no point were his certifications denied, suspended or revoked,” Alaska Airlines said in a statement.
Passengers on the plane said a flight attendant told them Mr Emerson suffered a mental breakdown.
“After we did land and the gentleman was escorted off, the flight attendant got back on the speaker and said, plain and simple, ‘He had a mental breakdown. We needed to get him off the plane immediately’,’ Aubrey Gavello told ABC.
Records from the Federal Aviation Administration, which is supporting the law enforcement investigation, show the 44-year-old did not hold a certification to fly the ERJ 175 – the type of plane involved in Sunday’s incident.
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