PORTLAND, Ore. – The spouse of a former Alaska Airways pilot who prosecutors say tried to chop the engines of a Horizon Air flight whereas driving within the cockpit bounce seat stated Thursday she knew her husband was combating despair however that she was in a state of shock over his arrest.

“This is not my Joe,” Sarah Stretch instructed reporters after attending her husband Joseph Emerson’s first look in federal courtroom in Portland, Oregon.

“He never would’ve done that. He never would’ve knowingly done any of that,” she added, her voice quivering. “That is not the man that I married.”

Ethan Levi, a protection lawyer for Emerson, stated that Emerson was not suicidal or homicidal whereas on board the Horizon Air flight. “There was no intention to harm himself or other people,” he stated.

Levi added that Emerson wished to thank the flight crew for his or her “timely and heroic actions.”

State and federal prosecutors accused Emerson of attempting to have interaction an emergency hearth suppression system whereas driving within the cockpit bounce seat as an off-duty pilot on Horizon Air flight 2059 from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco on Sunday. After a quick wrestle with the pilots, he left the cockpit and was positioned in wrist restraints behind the aircraft, in line with courtroom paperwork.

The aircraft was diverted to Portland, the place it landed safely with greater than 80 folks on board.

Emerson has pleaded not responsible to state prices of tried homicide. Federal prosecutors in the meantime charged Emerson with interfering with a flight crew, which may carry as much as 20 years in jail.

In charging paperwork, police stated Emerson instructed them he’d had a nervous breakdown, had been combating despair and hadn’t slept for 40 hours.

Emerson was cited in charging paperwork as saying a pal had lately handed away. His protection lawyer Levi clarified Thursday that his pal, who was a finest man at his marriage ceremony, truly handed away about six years in the past.

Emerson additionally stated he had taken psychedelic mushrooms for the primary time about 48 hours earlier. The pilots and others who encountered Emerson stated he didn’t seem intoxicated, in line with courtroom paperwork.

The FBI affidavit stated Emerson, who as an off-duty pilot was approved to trip within the cockpit’s bounce seat, made informal dialog with the captain and first officer when the aircraft was between Astoria, Oregon, and Portland, earlier than attempting to seize two crimson handles that may have activated the aircraft’s hearth suppression system and reduce off gasoline to its engines.

After what the flight crew described as a wrestle lasting solely about 30 seconds, Emerson left the cockpit, the FBI stated.

Flight attendants positioned Emerson in wrist restraints and seated him within the rear of the plane, however because the aircraft descended, he tried to seize the deal with of an emergency exit, in line with the doc. A flight attendant stopped him by putting her arms on high of his, it stated.

Alaska Airways stated Tuesday that Emerson had been relieved of all duties. He final piloted a flight on Oct. 19, the airline stated, three days earlier than the Horizon Air episode.

Emerson joined Horizon as a primary officer or co-pilot in 2001. In 2012, he went to work at Virgin America, which was purchased by Alaska in 2016. Emerson was promoted to captain in 2019.

The averted catastrophe has renewed consideration on the psychological health of these allowed within the cockpit.

Alaska Airways stated Emerson met all necessities for medical exams “and at no point were his certifications denied, suspended or revoked.”

Emerson was to stay in custody.


Claire Rush is a corps member for the Related Press/Report for America Statehouse Information Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit nationwide service program that locations journalists in native newsrooms to report on undercovered points.

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