Airline pilot indicted for allegedly threatening to shoot the captain ‘multiple times’ if the flight was diverted for a passenger’s medical emergency

A pilot has been charged for allegedly threatening to shoot the plane’s captain if he diverted the flight because of a passenger requiring medical attention.

A Utah grand jury issued the indictment against Jonathan J. Dunn on Oct. 18 for an incident in August 2022, charging him with interfering with a flight crew, according to federal court records.

The Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General said in an email sent Tuesday that Dunn was the first officer, or co-pilot, on the flight and was authorized to carry a firearm as part of a program managed by the Transportation Security Administration.

“After a disagreement over a possible flight diversion due to a medical issue with a passenger, Dunn told the captain they would be shot multiple times if he diverted the flight,” the inspector’s office said general.

The inspector general described Dunn as a California pilot. He did not identify the airline on which the incident occurred, saying only that it was a commercial flight. The office did not say the planned route of the flight or whether it was diverted.

The inspector general said he was working with the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration on the investigation.

The two-page indictment filed in federal district court in Utah says only that Dunn “actually used a dangerous weapon to assault and intimidate the crew member.” It also did not name the airline, and the U.S. attorney’s office in Salt Lake City declined to comment beyond the information in the indictment.

Interfering with a flight crew is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

An arraignment is scheduled for November 16.

The pilot’s indictment came just days before a furloughed Alaska Airlines pilot sitting in the cockpit jump seat, he attempted to shut down the engines of a Horizon Air jet in mid-flight. He was subdued by the captain and co-pilot and arrested after the plane was diverted to Portland, Oregon.

Joseph David Emerson of Pleasant Hill, California, told police he suffered from depression and had taken psychedelic mushrooms 48 hours before the robbery. He pleaded not guilty in state court in Portland to attempted murder.

This incident has reignited debate over how pilots are screened for their mental health – largely through the belief that they will voluntarily provide information that could raise security concerns. Pilots are required, during regular medical exams, to disclose depression, anxiety, drug or alcohol dependence and medications they are taking.

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