Passengers sue after off-duty pilot’s alleged attempt to shut down engine during flight

(The Hill) – Passengers of an Alaska Airlines flight that was nearly downed due to an alleged attempt by an off-duty pilot to shut down the engines last month have filed a class-action suit against the airline.

The lawsuit alleges that the airline did not properly follow its policy by allowing Joseph Emerson to fly in the cockpit’s jump seat, despite him admitting that he was not right of mind.

The suit’s three plaintiffs said they suffered emotional distress from the incident.

According to prosecutors, Emerson was sleep-deprived, depressed and on psychedelic mushrooms when he took the flight and attempted to shut down the plane’s engines. He was restrained by the cabin crew and later charged with attempted murder.

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“The airlines need a wake-up call,” attorney in the suit Daniel Laurence said in a statement. “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.”

“Airlines can and should take simple and reasonable steps before each flight to challenge the presumption that every pilot who shows up at the gate is rested, sober, and in the right state of mind to fly,” he added.

The attorney claimed the pilot’s remarks during the incident and after show why the airline shouldn’t have allowed him aboard.

“Our clients suffered needlessly as a result. Only luck prevented it from becoming a mass disaster,” Laurence said.

Alaska Airlines said in a statement to The Associated Press that it is reviewing the complaint.

“The pilots and flight attendants operating Flight 2059 responded without hesitation to ensure the safety of all onboard,” the airline wrote. “We are incredibly proud and grateful for their skilled actions.”

It is a common practice for off-duty pilots to catch rides in jump seats.

Emerson has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder charges in Oregon state court and faces arraignment later this month on a federal charge of interfering with a flight crew.

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