Aviation expert discusses mental state of pilots in US amid Alaska Airlines incident

Kristen Sze Image
Thursday, October 26, 2023
Aviation expert discusses mental state of pilots in US
How are pilots' state of mental health addressed? One aviation expert helps get answers to that question.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- An alleged plane crash attempt by an off-duty pilot is now raising critical questions about the mental health of pilots and the current safety standards set by the FAA.

Audio from that flight broadcasts a crew member speaking to the FAA: "OK, I'll just give you a heads up. We got the guy who tried to shut the engines down out of the cockpit. And he doesn't sound like he's causing any issue in the back right now. I think he's subdued."

Joseph Emerson, a Bay Area pilot, is facing 83 attempted murder charges for allegedly trying to shut off a plane's engines as it was heading to SFO.

RELATED: Alaska Airlines passengers describe off-duty pilot's demeanor, moments leading up to arrest

Passengers who were onboard Alaska Airlines describe what led up to the off-duty pilot arrest after he allegedly tried to shut down the engines.

He told investigators he hadn't slept in 40 hours, that he was having a nervous breakdown, and also mentioned using psychedelic mushrooms about 48 hours before the incident.

So how did this happen? And what can the U.S. do to prevent future incidents? Is this something travelers should be concerned about on the regular?

Shawn Pruchnicki, a former airline pilot who's now a professor of aviation safety at Ohio State University spoke with ABC7 News' 'Getting Answers' to talk more about the issue.

Hear Pruchnicki's reactions to the incident, and his perspective on the mental state of pilots nationwide, in the play above.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live