On October 22, 2023, Alaska Airlines Flight 2059 operated by Horizon Air from Everett, WA (PAE) to San Francisco, CA (SFO) reported a credible security threat related to an off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot, identified as Captain Joseph Emerson, who was traveling in the flight deck jump seat. Captain Emerson unsuccessfully attempted to disrupt the operation of the engines. The Horizon Captain and First Officer quickly responded, and the crew secured the aircraft without incident.
Engine power was not lost despite the off-duty pilot’s attempt to shut down the engines by engaging the Engine Fire Handle, also known as the fire suppression system. The fire suppression system consists of a T-handle for each engine. If the T-handle is fully deployed, a valve in the wing closes to shut off fuel to the engine. In this case, the quick reaction of our crew to reset the T-handles ensured engine power was not lost. Our crew responded without hesitation to a difficult and highly unusual situation, and we are incredibly proud and grateful for their skillful actions.
Following appropriate FAA procedures and guidance from Air Traffic Control, the flight was safely diverted to Portland International Airport (PDX). Captain Emerson is currently in custody and the event is being investigated by law enforcement authorities, which includes the FBI and the Port of Portland Police Department.
All passengers on board were able to complete their journey with a new crew and aircraft. We are grateful for the patience of our guests throughout this event and are reaching out to each of them individually to discuss their experience and check-in on their well-being.
Captain Emerson joined Alaska Air Group as a Horizon First Officer in August 2001. In June 2012, Emerson left Horizon to join Virgin America as a pilot. Emerson became an Alaska Airlines First Officer following Alaska’s acquisition of Virgin America in 2016. He became an Alaska Airlines Captain in 2019. Throughout his career, Emerson completed his mandated FAA medical certifications in accordance with regulatory requirements, and at no point were his certifications denied, suspended or revoked.