An airline employee who worked on the ground, stole a plane at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SeaTac), took off and then later crashed, SeaTac airport said. It's believed the employee was the only one on board.
An airline employee conducted an unauthorized takeoff without passengers at Sea-Tac; aircraft has crashed in south Puget Sound. Normal operations at Sea-Tac Airport have resumed.— Sea-Tac Airport (@SeaTacAirport) August 11, 2018
The plane crashed on Ketorn Island outside Seattle. It's a small island with about two dozen residents.
According to the Pierce County Sheriff, preliminary information indicated a mechanic from unknown airlines stole the plane. The Pierce County Sheriff tweeted the person was "doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills caused crash into Island." That appears to be INACCURATE.
Recordings from air traffic control and military radio frequencies allegedly indicate fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the plane. Those recordings also seem to indicate the fighter jets DID intercept the plane, which "went down" very shortly thereafter. There is not-so-subtle chatter the plane was SHOT DOWN by US fighter jets.
The plane belonged to Horizon Air, which is owned by Alaska Airlines. In a statement, Alaska Airlines said they are "aware of an incident involving an unauthorized take-off of a Horizon Air Q400."
KIRO-TV reporter Gary Horcher tweeted that all planes at SeaTac were grounded. As of 12:30 a.m., SeaTac tweeted that normal operations had resumed.
Major security incident at SeaTac Airport. All planes are grounded—captain telling passengers a Horizon airliner was taken without authorization, and military jets are scrambling to intercept it. We’re working to confirm information now pic.twitter.com/AQJVzCcxum— Gary Horcher (@GaryKIRO7) August 11, 2018
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Two F-15 fighters were scrambled and all SeaTac flights were briefly grounded.
"One of the F-15s made contact with the rogue pilot. Shortly thereafter the plane crashed" a source at Joint Base Lewis–McChord Air Force Base says.
The video below shows the stolen plane being "escorted" by a fighter jet, shortly before the stolen plane "crashed."
The link below gets you a 20 minute audio file of Sea-Tax air traffic control. The man who stole the plane is heard saying “I got a lot of people that care about me, and, uhh, it’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this,” the man, later identified as a mechanic named Rich, can be heard saying. “I would like to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess. Never knew it, until now.” He would go on to ask if the plane could to a BACKFLIP.
The tower discourages him from trying such a maneuver.
Later, the man says he thinks he may be losing an engine and is told by the tower to remain over the water and keep a low altitude.
Throughout the ordeal, Sea-Tac had to continue handling dozens of aircraft for many miles around, and dozens more which were on "ground-hold." No one was being allowed to take-off due to this situation.
Based on the audio, it seems as though the person who did this was SUICIDAL.
HT COMMENT: The level of professionalism displayed in other radio communications by each and every individual in the airline industry is amazing. Every plane in the sky and on the ground could hear what was going on. They sped-up their communications to keep the channel as clear as possible while still getting their jobs done. A real tribute to the entire industry.
Sadly, now that this has taken place, the world may actually have to add something to aircraft everywhere: a set of ignition keys so planes cannot be stolen. As things stand now, planes do not have any such locks. A trained person gets in the cockpit, flips some switches, pushes some buttons and off they go into the wild blue yonder. What the suicidal individual did may change ALL of that, worldwide.
He won't see any of it though; he died in a fireball when the plane he stole "went down."