Man Who Tried To Stall Plane Released On Bail Pending Trial

The off-duty airline pilot accused of attempting to cut the engines on a passenger flight in October while riding in an extra seat in the cockpit was given bail last week with specific conditions applied, including that he stays away from airplanes, the Associated Press reported.

Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Ryan agreed to release former Alaska Airlines pilot Joseph Emerson on bail after he pleaded not guilty to the reduced charge of reckless endangerment. Emerson had initially faced charges of attempted murder.

The judge set Emerson’s bail at $50,000 for which he had to post 10 percent to be released. Under the conditions of his bail, Emerson must undergo a mental health evaluation, avoid drugs and alcohol, and stay at least 30 feet away from an operable aircraft.

Emerson is also charged in federal court with interfering with a flight crew for which he also pleaded not guilty. The judge in the federal case also agreed to bail pending trial.

Upon Emerson’s release from Multnomah County jail on December 7, his attorney Noah Horst told reporters that since Emerson must stay away from aircraft, he and his wife planned to drive home to Pleasant Hill, California.

Emerson’s wife Sarah Stretch told reporters that she was happy that her husband’s case raised awareness about mental health issues among airline pilots.

Emerson’s attorney said the former pilot was not fully in possession of his mental faculties when he attempted to shut the engines down on the Horizon Air flight from Everett, Washington San Francisco in October when he was riding in the cockpit.

Emerson had to be subdued by the crew and the plane was diverted to Portland.

According to the probable cause statement filed in October, Emerson told Port of Portland police that he had been struggling with depression after the recent death of a friend and had consumed psychedelic mushrooms 48 hours before the incident. Emerson also admitted that he hadn’t slept in over 40 hours.