Alaska Pilot, Passengers Foil Attempted Murder-Suicide


In single-pilot aircraft, non-pilot passengers are often welcome in the right front seat. But Joshua Kersch, a Cessna Caravan pilot for Ryan Air, declined such a request on a 76-NM flight from Bethel to Aniak, Alaska, perhaps saving his life and those of five passengers.

On July 7, 18-year-old Jaden Lake-Kameroff of Bethel boarded the scheduled Ryan Air flight. A spokesman for the Alaska State Troopers told the Anchorage Daily News, “Lake-Kameroff had asked the pilot to fly the plane … during the flight and initially asked to sit in the unoccupied copilot seat. Both requests were denied by the pilot.”

According to a statement released by the State Troopers, while approaching to land and about five miles from Aniak at about 1,000 to 1,500 feet above the ground, Lake-Kameroff “got up from his seat and took control of the yoke causing the Cessna Caravan to nosedive.” Kirsch pushed him back and regained control of the airplane as the four other passengers subdued the teen. The Caravan landed safely.

Alaska State Troopers from Aniak responded to the 2:44 p.m. (local time) call, arrested Lake-Kameroff and charged him with terroristic threatening in the 2nd degree, five counts of attempted assault in the 1st degree and four counts of assault in the 3rd degree. The troopers also notified the FAA of the incident.

According to an affidavit prepared by the state troopers, Lake-Kameroff told them he was attempting suicide. He said he had talked with behavioral health officials, but said it had not helped.

Ryan Air President Lee Ryan praised Kersch, saying, “Our pilot relied heavily on his training procedures and his professionalism and landed without further incident. We’re extremely thankful for the safe outcome and extremely grateful for the passengers and the pilot and [air traffic control] collectively working together to land safely.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska is conferring with local, state and federal law enforcement partners on preparing federal charges, according to a spokesperson for the office.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Alaska would have to up near the top of the list of the worst places in the world to try something like that.

  2. The FAAs answer will be to treat all passengers like suicidal terrorists. Don’t forget sheeple, this is a crisis. Now sit down and put your face tampon back on.

    • I want permanent chin diapers, so people will not breath on me in public. I stopped flying commercial aircraft because the wilding people ride on them and go nuts in the air without repercussion making flying commercial unsafe.
      Watch this guy will not be convicted

      • “breathe”…”breathe”…not “breath”
        Two different words, two different meanings.

  3. Removing the co-pilot yoke would reduce the chance of this happening ever again and it’s the only way to insure compliance with FAR 135.115 No pilot in command may allow any person to manipulate the flight controls of an aircraft during flight. Simply reinstall control yoke twice a year for training and evaluations. Just imagine the lawsuits that would follow a successful suicide attempt with a full plane. Was Ryan air doing everything they could, to comply with FAR 135.115 ?

    • Better approach is more investigation of troubled individuals, a high proportion give warnings. (People will say ‘he seemed nice’ but then it is discovered he had a skull on a shrine in his backard – the case of the person who shot a congresswoman in AZ.)

      • ‘backyard’ of course.

        There often is evasion of behaviour, and often failure to actually do something constructive.

        The case in two murders in my area:
        – one by a known vicious bully who police and school authorities failed to re-educate. School principal’s solution was to try to move her to another school! It took years through appeals and prison time for the perp to start to show remorse, even then I am skeptical. Along the way she got pregnant by a criminal boyfriend during a ‘congugal visit’. Poor child does not have parents.
        – two students well known to be very negative tortured and murdered another student. Yet one former school official claimed the murder could not be predicted.

        In another case the principle’s ‘solution’ was to move the victim of bullying to another school. !! Yes, the education system is bad.

        And there was the negative acting bunch at Columbine school, who killed.

        Vote for more policing to investigate.

    • It is not always practical or legal to remove the right side yoke. For pt91 maybe, but for pt135 there are all kinds of FAA hoops to go through to maybe get that approved. And the loss of one paying passenger can make the difference on whether the flight is profitable or not. We’re not talking about pt121 airlines that have deep pockets and government bankruptcy protection. This is such a rare occurrence in pt135 ops that the last thing that is needed is some bureaucratic knee jerk rule to make flight operations that much more difficult. Unless a passenger has a previous attainable record of misbehavior on airplanes, there is not much that can be done to prevent this. The fact that the plane still landed safely, and that this is the first such occurrence I have heard of in pt135 ops since 9/11, I see little need for further worthless TSA regulation.

      • Good idear, dat yokles redundent. Don’t ferget bout the ruddle peders. Dems real portant tue.

    • Yes, absolutely. Nobody should ever do anything without first considering if lawsuits could result.

  4. Yet another case of a suicidal person wanting to take innocents with her/him.

    Why is that so common today?

    • HI Keith,
      If you look back over the 20th century you will see that life is cheap.
      Men like Hitler, Stalin, Mao killing their own citizens to create their perfect State.
      The answer starts with theology. Are we just biological freaks that evolved from some gu or were we created in the image of God , as Moses wrote in Genesis and our founding fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence.
      What is the dignity of a human being, and what have we taught our kids ?

      • People are not valued by collectives.

        Our society was founded on rights of individuals, not collectives which churches are.

        (Consider treatment of children in ‘residential schools’ – gummint and church organizations running them would not spend to return child’s body to parents. BTW, a great many deaths were from illness, infectious diseases commonly, while widespread in those days proper sanitation and treatment reduces death rate.)

        By the way, the founders of the US were Deists, to the extent they were religious at all – believed in a supreme creator but rejected the notion of humans interacting with it. Promoters of religion try to warp society including by mis-representing what the founders said, a minor example being the addition of the ‘In God we trust’ slogan. (All others pay cash. :-o)

        Religion comes from Plato’s mind-body dichotomy of two worlds, which enables the Priest mentality, whereas Aristotle taught one-world that humans can understand, and Ayn Rand put a foundation under morality by explaining that it fosters life.

      • Nobody teaches their kids much of anything anymore. Kids grow up in the world of social media, which is a sewer. And they learn the value of human life from the movies they watch and the computer games they play. The result is predictable.

        • I see a major problem of differentiation – there are a large many high school students who are accomplishing much, even though not necessarily what we like, but there are many who are unproductive – fodder for mobs.

  5. Kudos AvWeb for a well written, pertinent article.

    This is definitely not the first instance where a demented (or malevolent) person tried to commit suicide while murdering lots of other people.

    A good rule for Part 135 is ‘passengers ride in the back’. It wasn’t clear from the article whether that is SOP for this company, but the pilot always has the perogative to keep the right seat open.

    The logistics of flagging questionable persons and making that information available to airlines or air taxi operations, sky diving, or any others who carry people not known by the operator/owner/pilot seem beyond do-able. We might as well just cancel flights for hire, charitable flights, or any other flight so unknown suicidal persons are denied access to controls, doors, etc.

  6. I have flown right seat numerous times on single-pilot runs of various types and always “volunteer” to do so, not just because I enjoy it but also because it reassures the pilot (at least somewhat) that I probably will not become a problem by fiddling with things.

    As far as keeping passengers out of the seat or modifying the aircraft to eliminate access to all controls, both would represent an unreasonable financial “hit” not statistically justified.

  7. Not only suicides. The school where I do my IFR refresher training also do what I call ‘joy rides’ for those who want to experience flight and perhaps start training. My instructor friend ( not young by any means ) was in the air showing this first timer the effects of controls. “Now move the stick forward and the nose will go down”, well the ‘student’ did by slamming the stick forward and entering a deep dive from which my friend had to physically wrestle the stick back, pull back high Gs and went close to impacting the ground,
    On arrival after inspection the wing spar had bent.
    I suggested he report this episode for a number of reasons, but he was reluctant to do it.
    There have been other things I wish my friend reported, but they are all scared of the spotlight on them even tho it would be for the greater good.

    • Joy rides and introductory flights are ways to provide anyone wanting experience flying. It’s up to the commercial pilot to instruct strangers on handling flight controls. I did what many do, paid for any introductory flight, given controls after being instructed about “I have/you have controls” and more. Perhaps this pilot gave away too much trust to a stranger.

  8. What’s it cost to replace a wing spar in the aircraft? Would NTSB 830 required reporting be required by the owner/operator of the damaged aircraft??

    “…’move the stick forward and the nose will go down’… the ‘student’ did by slamming the stick forward and entering a deep dive from which my friend had to physically wrestle the stick back, pull back high Gs and went close to impacting the ground,
    On arrival after inspection the wing spar had bent. …”