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Off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot tried to shut off plane engines

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America/TNS

An off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot attempted to take control of the flight and turn off the plane engines midair before being subdued on Sunday.

The incident occurred Sunday night on a flight from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco when the pilot was in the jump seat in the cockpit. Airline pilots routinely hop aboard other flights to catch a free ride.

The Embraer E-175 regional jet took off from from Paine Field around 5:23 p.m. with 80 passengers and additional crew, according to the Seattle Times.

According to audio obtained by the newspaper, the flight crew got the situation under control quickly.

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“We’ve got the guy that tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit, and he doesn’t sound like he’s causing any issues in the back right now,” the pilot told air traffic controllers, adding that they wanted police to meet them when they landed.

The plane was diverted to Portland International Airport where the pilot was arrested. Local police are investigating with support from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Joe Emerson, 44, was booked into a Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office jail around 4:00 a.m. on Monday morning, according to the Seattle Times. He’s been charged with 83 counts of attempted murder, 83 counts of reckless endangerment and one count of endangering an aircraft.

Alaska Air Group said in a statement there was “a credible security threat related to an authorized occupant in the flight deck jump seat” during the flight.

“The crew secured the aircraft without incident. All passengers on board were able to travel on a later flight.

“We are grateful for the professional handling of the situation by the Horizon flight crew and appreciate our guests’ calm and patience throughout this event,” Alaska Air said.

The passengers were given travel vouchers, the airline said.

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