SAN FRANCISCO — An off-duty pilot sitting in the extra seat in the cockpit of a Horizon Air passenger plane tried to shut off the engines mid-flight and had to be subdued by the crew, according to a pilot who was flying the plane.
Oregon authorities have identified the off-duty pilot as Joseph David Emerson, 44, of Pleasant Hill.
ABC7 News I-Team reporter Dan Noyes examined Emerson’s background to see if there were any warning signs that may have led to the close call in the cockpit.
An extensive records search revealed no criminal history, tax liens or divorce proceedings.
He was born in Washington state and moved to Contra Costa County in 2008.
In April 2016, he became a pilot for Alaska Airlines.
He has a wife who teaches at Peralta Community College and two young sons. He owns his home in Pleasant Hill. On Monday, neighbors struggled to understand the incident.
“He never said anything negative about his job or anything like that,” said a neighbor.
“Yeah, he’s very understanding…we have a grandson with special needs and he’s very good to him, so we just can’t imagine him doing anything that would hurt anyone,” another neighbor said.
During the pandemic, he has been active on X, formerly known as Twitter, discussing furloughing Alaska Airlines pilots. He wrote in December 2020: “The future of air travel remains extremely bleak. Immediate relief for the aviation industry is critical.”
And one of his Facebook posts particularly impressed Noyes: “I tell my son every night: ‘Every day is another gift of this great adventure called life, good, bad, happy, sad. Everyone is equally important.’”
If it is true that Emerson tried to bring down the plane on Sunday, one has to wonder how and why he lost that healthy attitude.
ABC7 News has reached out to Emerson’s family for comment but has not heard back.
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