Pilot who tried to shut down engines while high thought he ‘was in hell’

A pilot who almost crashed a plane after taking psychedelics and flying has spoken out about the experience that almost ended in tragedy.

Joseph Emerson, 44, spoke from behind bars after the incident October 22. The father of two intended to go on a weekend getaway to remember his late best friend. He was off duty and was flying 83 passengers in the jet.

The Alaska Airlines pilot admitted to taking magic mushrooms just two days before he took off. During those couple of days, he said he was in a daze and could not sleep properly. On top of that, he claimed to have multiple panic attacks.

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Since landing, he was arrested and sent to county jail, where he spoke to The New York Times about the experience. He is currently facing 83 counts of attempted murder for each of the passengers. He will plead not guilty.

Emerson sent his wife a desperate message before he took off, saying ‘I just want to hold you.’ He said he felt out of it for two days before the flight, but still decided to fly. His co-pilots said that he showed signs of erratic behaviour and told them ‘I’m not okay’ as the plane went into cruising mode.

During the episode, he pulled the emergency fire suspension handles overhead, which caused the plane to fly off course meaning his co-pilots had to fight to keep the plane in the air. They then diverted the plane to have an emergency diversion to Portland.

Emerson said he took the magic mushrooms with his friends after he was assured it would wear off in a matter of hours so he’d be safe to fly two days later. However, he said it was a bad trip he just couldn’t shake off. He said it made him distrust his friends. 'I felt fearful of them,' he said, adding that he also 'started to have this feeling that this wasn't real.'

'I thought of a lot of traumatic things in that time where I was like, ‘Am I dead? Is this hell,' he added. He then admitted that he did not sleep until he got on the plane and had to fly. The police rushed to arrest him on the jet after landing.

The pilot managed to text his wife before he was taken to jail and said 'I'm having a mental breakdown and tried to turn off both engines on my flight home.’ In a separate message he said ‘I’ve made a big mistake.’

After he landed, the trip continued, with Emerson stripping naked, urinated on himself and tried to jump out of a window. His wife, Sarah, said he was out of it in custody and sang Boyz II Men’s hit song 'It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday’ while on the phone to her.

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