GRAND FORKS — An off-duty pilot from California who allegedly tried to crash a plane with 80 passengers on board appears to have ties to UND, a university that in recent years has recognized the importance of mental health care for pilots.
Joseph David Emerson, 44, appears to be a UND alumnus, according to Grand Forks Herald graduation and dean’s list archives, as well as David Dodds, UND communications director.
Dodds confirmed that a Joseph David Emerson attended UND from 1997 to 2001, earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration in aviation management, but he said “any connection by this individual to the incident … would have to be confirmed by property authorities, including the Federal Aviation Administration.”
Herald archives show Joseph Emerson on the dean’s list in a report published in March 2000, as well as the graduation of Joseph Emerson, of Cheney, Washington, in a list published on July 1, 2001.
On Sunday, Oct. 22, a regional carrier owned by Alaska Airlines was traveling from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco, as reported by numerous news agencies. Emerson, off-duty at the time, was seated in the flight deck jump seat behind the crew when he allegedly tried to shut down the aircraft’s engines, according to a pilot’s air traffic control statement.
The attempt was unsuccessful, and Emerson was subdued.
Emerson was booked in Portland, Oregon, after the aircraft made an emergency landing. He is charged with 83 counts of Class A felony attempted murder, one count of Class C felony endangering an aircraft and 83 counts of Class A misdemeanor reckless endangerment.
From July to December 2020, Emerson used social media to share concerns about the aviation industry, which was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The future of air travel remains highly depressed,” he wrote in December 2020. “Immediate relief for the airline industry is critical.”
He tagged multiple…