KING 5: PORTLAND, Oregon — Passengers onboard an Alaska Airlines flight when an off-duty pilot tried to cut the jet’s engines have filed a lawsuit against the company.
The class-action lawsuit, filed by a Washington-based law firm on behalf of three passengers, calls for the airline and its affiliate, Horizon Air, to create a more rigorous pre-flight screening for pilots and an explanation from the airline about the incident.
The lawsuit detailed the fear passengers experienced on the Oct. 22 flight when an off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot, Joseph David Emerson, 44, allegedly attempted to shut down the engines while riding in the extra seat in the cockpit. He was eventually subdued by pilots and other plane staff.
After the incident, he told police he had taken psychedelic mushrooms days before and hadn’t slept in 40 hours. He also said he had been depressed for months.
There were 83 other people on board the flight heading to San Francisco from Everett, including 11 under the age of 14, according to a federal affidavit in support of the criminal complaint.
“Plaintiffs were left in the dark about what was happening. Passengers did not know what was wrong,” according to the lawsuit. “Thoughts of a complete plane malfunction or terrorist activity naturally entered their minds.”
Daniel Laurence, an attorney with the firm that filed the lawsuit, the Strittmatter Firm, said in the future he hopes to see every pilot who boards a plane rested and in the right state of mind.
“The airlines need a wake-up call,” Laurence wrote in a statement. “We understand that most pilots are heroes every day for safely operating our airliners. But they are not immune from sleeplessness, drinking, drugs, or a mental health crisis.”