Alaska Airlines sued over attempt by off-duty pilot to shut down engines

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Alaska Airlines pilot Joseph David Emerson appears in Portland court

Joseph David Emerson, 44, an Alaska Airlines pilot who was riding in the cockpit "jump seat" and is accused of trying to disable the engines of a Horizon Air jet, appears in Multnomah County court in Portland, Oregon, U.S. October 24, 2023. Dave Killen/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights

Nov 3 (Reuters) - Three passengers sued Alaska Airlines on Thursday after an off-duty pilot in the cockpit "jump seat" on a jet they were riding allegedly tried to disable the plane's engines, accusing the Seattle-based carrier of breaching its duty to ensure flight safety.

The lawsuit stems from an in-flight emergency declared by the crew of Alaska Airlines Flight 2059 over the Pacific Northwest while the aircraft was en route from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco, on Oct 22.

The suit also names Horizon Air - the regional subsidiary operating the Alaska Airlines flight- as a defendant.

The Stritmatter Firm, the law firm representing the three passengers, told Reuters that it was the first lawsuit filed in the incident.

Alaska Airlines in an emailed statement to Reuters said that they have received the complaint and are reviewing it.

The suit was filed in Washington state court as a proposed class-action complaint on behalf of all those who flew as passengers aboard the aircraft.

The passengers in the lawsuit have asked for a public explanation from Alaska Air and Horizon Air as to why the pilot was not subjected to preflight security screening.

The lawsuit is seeking special and general damages in amounts to be proved at a trial, including ticket fees, damages for psychological injury, physical pain and suffering among others.

The suit also seeks injunctive relief mandating Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air to conduct examinations of all anticipated flight crew and jump seat passengers, including their "mental health status".

Joseph David Emerson was the Alaska Airlines pilot who was riding as a standby employee passenger in the cockpit "jump seat". According to court documents, Emerson told police he had struggled with depression for the past six months and had taken "magic mushrooms" about 48 hours before boarding the plane.

Emerson ended up restrained by members of the cabin crew and was arrested in Portland, Oregon, where the flight was diverted and landed safely. The 44-year-old was charged with 83 counts of attempted murder - one for every person aboard the plane besides himself - and a single count of endangering an aircraft.

Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles, Abinaya Vijayaraghavan and Shubhendu Deshmukh in Bengaluru; Additional Reporting by Chandni Shah, Mrinmay Dey and Gokul Pisharody and Devika Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Aurora Ellis

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