Three Alaska Airlines passengers filed a class action lawsuit on the behalf of themselves and 76 other passengers against the carrier Thursday from an Oct. 22 incident where an off-duty pilot riding in the cockpit tried to shut off the plane's engines mid-flight.
The suit from the 79 passengers on Alaska Airlines Flight 2059, traveling from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco, California, claim psychological and other damages after off-duty pilot Joseph David Emerson sprang up from the cockpit "jump seat" he was riding in and tried to cause an emergency engine shutdown, according to the complaint.
The flight's pilot and co-pilot were able to stop Emerson and get him out of the cockpit and secure the door.
According to the federal criminal complaint charging Emerson with attempted murder as well as interference of flight crew members and attendants, he told investigators that he had a "break down."
"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," Washington law firm Stritmatter Kessler Koehler Moore attorney Daniel Laurence said in a press release announcing the lawsuit Thursday. "Airlines are charged with the lives of passengers and, by law, have the highest duty of care.
"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. 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."
According to the release, Emerson said he was depressed and had not slept for around 40 hours and took psychedelic mushrooms 48 hours prior to 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 firm said in the 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."
Charles Kim ✉
Charles Kim, a Newsmax general assignment writer, is an award-winning journalist with more than 30 years in reporting on news and politics.
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