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A pilot reportedly threatened to shoot his co-captain in the air

Plane pilot Jonathan J. Dunn has been indicted over an August 2022 incident.

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While some work partners are better than others, the stakes are undeniably higher in the aviation world. 

On Oct. 31, the inspector general's office for the U.S. Department of Transportation confirmed that plane captain Jonathan J. Dunn has been indicted over an August 2022 incident in which he allegedly threatened to shoot his co-pilot over his decision to divert the plane because one of the passengers on board needed medical help.

Related: Pilot video showing just how close planes really fly is freaking out some travelers

“After a disagreement about a potential flight diversion due to a passenger medical event, Dunn told the Captain they would be shot multiple times if the Captain diverted the flight,” the inspector general's office said in a statement provided to the Associated Press.

A hand holds a judge’s gavel in a courtroom.

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Grand jury indicts California pilot (here’s what we know about the case)

The office also confirmed that Dunn actually had a gun onboard the plane under a TSA program for pilots intended to provide safety in the event of hyjackers. A grand jury in Utah has indicted Dunn over the incident on Oct. 18 and while scant details on the alleged threats have been released, the coming weeks will see further progression and court action. An arraignment date has been set for Nov. 16.

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At the moment, the Transportation Department’s attorney general’s office is not revealing which airline the incident occurred on or the name of the co-pilot to whom the threat was allegedly uttered.

While it confirmed that Dunn is a California-based pilot, it also did not provide the direction of the route or whether it ended up being diverted in the end.

If convicted on charges around interference with the flight crew, Dunn could face up to 20 years in prison.

Pilot ‘did use a dangerous weapon’ to intimate, indictment reads

The indictment from the federal district court in Utah says, according to the Associated Press, that Dunn “did use a dangerous weapon in assaulting and intimidating the crew member.”

A week before this incident went public, the aviation world was shaken by Alaska Airlines ALK pilot Joseph D. Emerson being charged with 83 counts of attempted murder after he reportedly tried to turn the engines of the flight from outside of Seattle to San Francisco off mid-flight. 

The co-pilot and other flight crew saved everyone onboard by resetting the engines and handcuffing Emerson to his seat for the remainder of the flight.

Amid an ongoing investigation of the averted tragedy (a police interview revealed that Emerson had taken psychedelics prior to the flight while recordings from the plane turned up him saying “I’m not okay” before attempting to shut the engine off), there have been increased calls for an industry-wide focus on pilot mental health as well as improvements in how pilots can report any health issues they may be dealing with before they reach a critical point.

Along with a better network for reporting, activists are calling for more support that will not be seen as a mark against a pilot’s flying capabilities. 

“The FAA essentially encourages people to not report problems,” Dr. Brent Blue, an FAA senior aviation examiner and pilot with over 40 years experience, recently told CNN.

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