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Off Duty Commercial Pilot Tries Taking Down a Flight


Off Duty Commercial Pilot Tries Taking Down a Flight lawyer attorney sue compensation incident liability

An incident involving an Alaskan Airlines flight being operated by Horizon Air has left the community concerned about airplane safety.

About the incident: Joseph Emerson, 44, an off-duty commercial airline pilot sitting in the cockpit jump seat on a flight from Everett, Washington to San Francisco, California, tried o take the flight down on Sunday, October 22, 2023. The plane was carrying 83 people and had to make an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon. Emerson was sitting in the cockpit jump seat, a seat offered as a courtesy to off-duty pilots on flights. According to the two pilots, they were having “casual conversation” with Emerson when he suddenly reached for the red handles used to activate the emergency fire suppression system. There was allegedly a short scuffle, but the pilots were able to remove Emerson out of the cockpit, lock the door, and notify flight attendants. Emerson was placed in wrist restraints and kept in the back of the plane; however, he had to be restrained again after lunging towards the emergency doors and trying to open them. The pilots told the authorities that there was no sign that Emerson would act the way that he did. Flight attendants told passengers that Emerson was suffering from a mental breakdown. When interviewed by police Emerson stated that he had a “nervous breakdown” after not having slept for about 40 hours and taking psychedelic mushrooms for the first time. He said that things did not seem right, that he thought he was dreaming, and that he thought pulling the emergency-shut off handle would let him wake up from the dream. If he had been successful, he would have cut off fuel supply to the engines.

Luckily, no one was injured. However, this incident has highlighted issues within airlines. Airlines allow off-duty personnel to travel in the cockpit routinely, without really knowing if the person allowed in the cockpit will pose a threat to anyone on the airplane. Although this incident ended positively, it could have resulted in harm to everyone on board.

If you suffered harm in this incident or in a similar incident, you could have grounds to file a lawsuit. For more information about the legal options available to you, we urge you to seek legal assistance with the experts here at the Downtown L.A. Law Group as soon as possible. Our lawyers have experience in aviation incidents and are more than ready to provide you with the guidance that you need to understand the legal options available to you and pursue a claim.

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Understanding the Severity of the Incident and What Could Have Happened

If Emerson had been successful in activating the emergency fire suppression system, the fuel supply would have been cut off from the engines. Engines need fuel to work properly, so engine failure would occur. This could cause forced landing or crashes. In many cases, the pilot is able to successfully glide the plane and land it in a safe area. Unfortunately, this is not always possible and some of these incidents ultimately lead to devastating crashes.

Airplane crashes can result in some of the most devastating injuries, which could include head injuries, traumatic brain injuries, neck injuries, back injuries, spinal cord injuries, fractures, severed limbs, crushing injuries, burns, etc. Often injuries resulting from plane crashes are fatal. Survivors often suffer permanent physical injuries in addition to extensive mental and emotional harm.

Emotional and Mental Distress Caused by the Incident

Although flight crew was able to subdue Emerson and make a safe landing, passengers were aware of the situation and were terrified. An experience like this can leave passengers dealing with post-traumatic stress, anxiety, fear, depression, and more. Of course, some passengers will be unaffected, but it is possible that many of them were affected in one way or another.

Liability for Incidents in Airplanes

Airlines are responsible for any harm resulting from incidents that occur in their planes. All their employees, including pilots, co-pilots, and flight attendants are expected to be able to clear background checks, drug tests, have appropriate training, and, most importantly, not pose a threat to passengers. Still, a “courtesy” of allowing an off-duty pilot to sit in the cockpit during a flight is apparently the norm in the industry. Unfortunately, this “courtesy” could have had devastating consequences.

So, can the airline be liable? Yes – airlines can be liable for any harm that occurs on a flight, including harm caused by poor policy (like allowing an off-duty pilot that is high on psychedelic mushrooms to sit in the cockpit).

For more information about the legal options available to you, contact the experts here at our law firm today. Our lawyers are more than ready to help you understand your right to sue and help you pursue your claim.

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Class Action Lawsuit against Alaska Airlines

The incident on the Alaska Airlines flight operated by Horizon Air may leave passengers with the right to sue. A class action lawsuit is likely given that there were over 80 people on the flight. If you are interested in participating in a class action lawsuit, we recommend that you seek legal assistance with the experts here at our law firm as soon as possible. Our lawyers are more than ready to provide you with the guidance necessary to ensure that your case is part of the class action lawsuit.

Contact the Downtown L.A. Law Group Today

Our airplane accident lawyers are more than ready to provide you with the guidance that you need to fight for your rights and recover the compensation that you are owed, which can include medical costs, lost income, pain and suffering, property damage, loss of consortium, wrongful death benefits, and legal fees, for example. To ensure that our legal services remain accessible for all affected parties, we offer free legal services. These include free consultations and free second opinions; whether you are looking to start or redirect your claim after starting it elsewhere, you can trust that our team is ready to provide you with all the information that you need to pursue your claim. To benefit from these free legal services, contact us today.

We offer a Zero-Fee Guarantee, meaning that our clients will not be required to pay upfront legal fees for our legal services. In addition, we work on contingency, so our clients will never be required to pay anything unless their claims are successful. If you are ready to speak with our trusted lawyers, contact us today.


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