The neighbour of an off-duty pilot hit with 83 counts of attempted murder after he allegedly tried to turn off a plane’s engines mid-flight has described his shock over the horror incident.
The suspect, identified as Alaska Airlines pilot Joseph Emerson, 44, allegedly attempted to cut off fuel to the engines during a flight from Seattle to San Francisco on Sunday – before being subdued by the flight crew.
The flight was forced to divert to Portland, Oregon after the captain and first officer intervened to keep the engines running.
Mr 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.
The incident has left his community horrified, with the pilot’s neighbour Ed Yee describing what happened as “very shocking”.
“He seems like a really nice guy. Nothing abnormal about him,” he told CNN.
Mr Emerson first joined the Alaska Air Group in 2001 as a first officer with Horizon before becoming a captain with the airline in 2019.
The airline said that 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.
The airline added that Mr Emerson was traveling in the flight deck jump seat on board the flight when he suddenly tried to shut down both of the plane’s engines by pulling the fire extinguisher handles.
Authorities do not believe the incident was an act of terrorism or ideologically-motivated violence, according to CNN.
The Seattle Times reported that there were 80 passengers on board the plane at the time. No injuries were reported on the flight, the FBI said.
Alaska Airlines confirmed that “all passengers on board were able to travel on a later flight”.
The FBI and the Port of Portland police are investigating the incident with the motive still unknown.
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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