Pilot who tried to take down plane after taking mushrooms speaks out

Pilot who tried to take down plane after taking mushrooms speaks out

The off-duty pilot who attempted to shut down a plane’s engines mid-flight after taking psychedelic mushrooms has spoken out for the first time since being charged with 83 counts of attempted murder.

Joseph Emerson, 44, was riding in the cockpit jumpseat on an Alaska Airlines flight on 22 October from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco, California.

In an interview with the New York Times this week, Mr Emerson explained: “I thought it would stop both engines, the plane would start to head towards a crash, and I would wake up.”

After the plane made an emergency landing in Portland, Mr Emerson admitted to police that he had had “a nervous breakdown” and had taken psychedelic mushrooms two days earlier. In all, he faces a total of 167 state charges and one federal count of interfering with flight crew members and attendants. He has pleaded not guilty.

Mr Emerson explained to the Times that he had no intention of harming anyone. His wife, Sarah Stretch called him “the most caring and gentle person.” On top of this, the Alaska Airlines incident was merely a reaction to taking a psychedelic, he claimed. He told police he had not slept in 40 hours and that he had struggled with depression for the past six months.

Mr Emerson said his depressed mental state was not uncommon among those in his field: “A lot of us [pilots] aren’t as forthcoming as we otherwise would be.”

The onset of his depression occurred, according to the outlet, after the best man at his wedding died in 2018. Mr Emerson has been wearing a necklace of his friend’s ashes ever since.

Mr Emerson was returning from a get together with friends to commemorate the death of his once best man; the group had already held a similar one the year prior.

One person on the trip suggested he try mushrooms, which Mr Emerson said he had never tried before, but ultimately agreed to, as he wasn’t scheduled to fly an aircraft for another six days.

According to an affidavit, Mr Emerson told a flight attendant: “You need to cuff me right now, or it’s going to be bad.” Flight attendants then moved Mr Emerson to the back of the plane and put him in flex handcuffs.

During the flight’s descent, he allegedly turned towards an emergency exit door and tried to grab the handle. “A flight attendant stopped Emerson by placing her hands on top of Emerson’s hands,” the affidavit said. The outlet said that he thought that if he jumped out, he would finally wake up.

He wouldn’t regain his full mental capacity until five days later, the outlet said, when things became clear to him that they were real and no longer a dream.

Upon reflection, Mr Emerson told the Times: ​​“I am horrified that those actions put myself at risk and others at risk.” He continued, “That crew got dealt a situation there’s no manual, checklist or procedure that’s been written for. And they did an exemplary job keeping me and the rest of the people on that plane safe.”

Now, weeks after the harrowing incident, reality seems to have finally sunk in. He told the outlet somberly: “I don’t know if I’ll ever fly an airplane again. I really don’t. And I had a moment where that kind of became obvious. And I had to grieve that.”