An Alaska Airlines flight to San Francisco was redirected to Portland after a passenger in the cockpit tried to turn off the plane’s engines, according to a notification from the US Federal Aviation Administration obtained by Reuters journalists. The 44-year-old pilot, who was not on duty at the time of the incident and was traveling in the cockpit, was charged with 83 counts of attempted murder.
Alaska Airlines Flight 2059 (operated by its Everett-based subsidiary Horizon Air, based in Seattle, Washington) departed Paine Field on Sunday at 5:23 p.m. There were 80 passengers on board, including an infant.
The plane was scheduled to land in San Francisco, California, but was diverted mid-flight to Portland, Oregon after a “credible report of a security threat.”
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), whose statement was cited by Reuters, described that a man sitting in the Embraer’s cockpit at one point tried to turn off the engines by activating the fire suppression system. It was reported that the crew managed to overpower the passenger and remove him from the cabin.
The newspaper’s website quoted a fragment of the cockpit recording. “I’ll give you a heads up. We have a guy who tried to turn off the engines in the cockpit,” one of the pilots told an air traffic controller in Portland. “We want law enforcement to act as soon as we get on the ground and park,” he added.
Dominic Gates, an aviation journalist for The Seattle Times, reported that the disabled pilot was an off-duty pilot. On the plane, he sat in the crew cabin, right behind the captain and first officer.
His presence in this part of the plane was not an unusual phenomenon, because every airline employee can take a return flight to the home base after the end of their shift, if there are seats available on the plane.
Pilots often choose the so-called “jump seat” in the cockpit, i.e. a foldable place that the crew takes during take-off and landing. “In this case, this seat was the only one available on the plane,” the journalist clarified.
The plane landed safely in Portland at 6:26 p.m., and the pilot was arrested. According to the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon, the 44-year-old was charged with 83 counts of attempted murder (all passengers and crew members).
Reuters, “The Seattle Times”, tvn24.pl
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