Jump-seater Tries To Shut Down Engines On Horizon Air Flight

By Spyros Georgilidakis | October 23, 2023

“An authorized occupant” riding in the cockpit of a Horizon Air flight was handcuffed, after attempting to shut down the aircraft’s engines.

This incident happened on Sunday the 22nd of October, involving Alaska Airlines flight AS-2059. Horizon Air operates the flight on behalf of Alaska Air six times per week, using an Embraer E175. The flight departs from Everett Paine Field (KPAE) at 5:25 PM, heading for San Francisco International (KSFO). It usually lasts between one and a half and two hours.

Jump-seater Tries To Shut Down Engines On Horizon Air Flight
Photo: Tomás Del Coro, CC BY-SA 2.0

On the day of the incident flight, there were a total of 84 people on board. The flight took off using runway 34L in Paine Field, quickly reaching FL310 as it cruised south. But around 10 minutes after reaching this cruise altitude, the flight crew decided to divert to Portland International Airport (KPDX).

According to a call the Horizon Air pilots made to air traffic control, their jump-seater tried to shut down the aircraft’s engines. Some reports suggest that this individual attempted to move the fire handles, which would shut down the engines of this Horizon Air Embraer E175. However, a later airline statement suggests that the individual may have interfered with the fuel cutoff switches instead.

Jump-seater Tries To Shut Down Engines On Horizon Air Flight
An E-series cockpit (in this case an E2) showing the position of the engine fire handles (in red, near the top of the image) in the overhead panel. Image: Embraer

Jumpseater Tries To Shut Down Horizon Air E175 Engines – Aftermath?

It is not clear exactly how the flight crew responded to this person’s actions. But they were able to get him out of the cockpit. The flight crew described this as a security level 4 incident, which is consistent with a breach of the flight crew compartment.

The flight made a safe landing on runway 28L in Portland, about 20 minutes after diverting. Law enforcement was waiting for the Horizon aircraft as it shut down its engines on gate B7 (after requesting B9). By this time, the cabin crew had handcuffed the jump seater and put him on one of their own seats, in the rear of the passenger cabin.

Photo: BestOnLifeform, CC BY-SA 4.0

The local authorities arrested this individual and identified him as a 44-year-old male, releasing his name. They charged him with 83 counts of attempted murder and one count of endangering an aircraft, among other charges.

His motives for allegedly attempting to turn off the engines of this Horizon E175 remain unclear. Various news media described him as a deadheading pilot for Alaska Air. According to some sources, the FBI is investigating the event.

Photo: Johnnyw3, CC BY-SA 4.0

The flight’s passengers flew on to San Francisco on a different aircraft. The incident aircraft is still in Portland, as of this writing, although the airline has already scheduled it for a revenue flight, later today. This Embraer E175 has registration N660QX and flew for the first time in June this year.

We will update this story if more information becomes available.



  • Barbara Wilcox

    Note also that psychedelic mushrooms, while illegal in most of the USA, have been decriminalized in the state of Oregon and in some California cities including Oakland, near Capt. Emerson’s home of Pleasant Hill. Along with this decriminalization, clinicians are studying mushrooms’ effect on depression. Emerson told authorities he was suffering from depression, so he may have taken shrooms as a remedy. Not a good idea for a pilot, as I’ve said. But I would be interested in knowing what better alternatives a depressed pilot would have under FAA and airline regs.

  • Barbara Wilcox

    Latest reports are that the arrested pilot had not slept for 40 hours and had ingested psychedelic mushrooms about 48 hours before the flight. I’ve only taken them once, long ago in my 20s, and had a pleasant experience, but no way would I have gone near any machinery much less a cockpit. Mushrooms can make you very noxious and dizzy, and possible side effects including dehydration from vomiting etc., can last many hours. I was advised to sit/lie quietly to avoid nausea and enjoy the psychedelic effects.

    I hope Mentour can do a segment on substances that can’t be taken for specified length of time before a flight. Would think shrooms would be on the list but you never know.

  • Yes I agree that attempted murder in this case is a grey area cos his intentions may not be to murder but he is deinitely putting these peoples life at danger and I am no legal professional but if I am not wrong it is easier to charge someone with a higher degree of crime first and then downgrade rather than doing it the other way so that could be why the authorities did as such but with all due respect I disagree that it is as ridiculous as you make it out to be

    I think that wanting to crash land the plane is akin to attempted murder considering that he is praying and betting (using the lives of others) that the pilot will be able to sucessfully land the plane. But lets give him the benefit of the doubt perhaps he was trying to do a stunt or make a message, in that case still, he is using the lives of other people to do so and still putting them at significant risk, a risk that they would not have faced if he did not do what he did.

    Its like a school bus driver driving off a road intentionally, yes he may not have wanted to kill every single individual on the bus, yes the bus may end up just fine, but he sure as heck is putting those childrens life at a danger that they would not have been if not for his actions.

  • Kat S – I agree that he knew what he was doing and intended to stop the engines. That is all we can conclude if early news reports like this one are accurate. But that does not mean he also wanted the plane to crash. It is very likely that one or both engines would have been restarted, leading to a safe, controlled landing even if the fire handles were pulled or fuel cutoff switched. And even if he further did want the airplane to crash land somewhere somehow, that doesn’t mean he also wanted every person on board to be killed.
    Why he wanted to stop the engines, we have no idea. Remember that they were not stopped, so all that can be considered are his intentions.

  • I really hope this guy gets a full medical and psych eval, maybe I’m stating the obvious but something is seriously wrong with this guy. A career pilot doesn’t just decide one day to go “huh, maybe it’s time to pull the fuel cutoffs in flight.” Since this is likely outside the scope of the NTSB no report will come out so we may never know the why of all this and closing this story with “guy’s nuts and going to go to jail” feels incomplete somehow.

  • I fail to see how that’s a ridiculous charge. I sincerely doubt it was a case of “wonder what this button does”. If he is Obed a pilot, he knew what he was doing and deserves the charge.

  • Eighty-three counts of attempted murder is/are ridiculous. A felony charge of endangering an aircraft and whatever misdemeanors are enough. Plus he’ll get fired, probably face an expensive civil lawsuit from the airline, and likely not get hired again as a commercial pilot.
    Attempting to shut down an airplane’s engines is a long way from actively trying to kill dozens of people. Even if he did what they say, that doesn’t mean he wanted the airplane to crash. Engines can be restarted in flight. And even if he did want to force a crash landing, that doesn’t mean he also wanted everyone on board to die. I sincerely hope he is acquitted on all 83 counts of attempted murder, or better yet, that the prosecutor realizes how inappropriate those charges are and drops them.

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