A pilot has been charged for allegedly threatening to shoot the plane’s captain if the captain diverted the flight because of a passenger in need of medical attention.
A grand jury in Utah issued the indictment against Jonathan J. Dunn on Oct. 18 for an incident that occurred in August 2022, charging him with interference with a flight crew, according to federal court records.
The Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General said in an email Tuesday that Dunn was the first officer or co-pilot of the flight and was cleared to carry a weapon under a program run by the Transportation Security Administration.
“After a disagreement regarding a possible flight diversion due to a medical event for passengers, Dunn told the captain that they would be shot multiple times if the captain diverted the flight,” the inspector general’s office said.
The inspector general described Dunn as a pilot from California. It did not say which airline the incident occurred on, only saying it involved a commercial airline flight. The office did not provide the flight’s planned route 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 in federal court in Utah says only that Dunn “used a dangerous weapon in assaulting and intimidating the crew member.” The airline was also not identified, 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 crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
An arraignment is scheduled for November 16.
The charges against the pilot came just a few days before an off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot, sitting in the jump seat in the cockpit, tried to shut down the engines of a Horizon Air plane mid-flight. He was subdued by the captain and co-pilot and arrested after the aircraft diverted to Portland, Oregon.
Joseph David Emerson of Pleasant Hill, California, told police he was suffering from depression and had ingested psychedelic mushrooms 48 hours before the flight. He pleaded not guilty in court in Portland to attempted murder charges.
That incident has reignited the debate over how pilots are screened for mental health — largely by relying on them to volunteer information that could cause safety concerns. Pilots are required to disclose depression, anxiety, drug or alcohol addiction and the medications they are taking during regular medical exams.