Airline Employee Crashes Stolen Airplane From Seattle Airport

An airline employee stole a passenger plane from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Friday, performing dangerous maneuvers in the sky before crashing on an island about an hour later, officials said.

The 29-year-old Horizon Air ground service agent died in the crash, according to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.

According to CNN, the FBI’s Seattle office did not consider this to be a terrorist action, but said it did raise questions about airport security. The sheriff’s department considered the airline employee to be “suicidal” who “acted alone.”

“Most terrorists don't do loops over the water,” Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said. “This might have been a joyride gone terribly wrong.”

The ground service agent took off with the empty passenger plane at around 8 p.m. local time Friday, officials said.

The airplane could be seen doing dangerous stunts and loops during its hour-long flight, ABC News reports.

 

North American Aerospace Defense Command quickly launched two F-15s to pursue the rogue plane, a federal senior aviation source told ABC News.

The Federal Aviation Administration implemented a “groundstop” for the Seattle airport as soon as the plane was stolen, and air traffic controllers “communicated with the individual who was flying the aircraft to try to help him land safely.”

In audio recordings of the incident posted on Broadcastify, the airline worker can be heard talking to the air traffic controllers as they attempt to help him land the plane.

“I've got a lot of people that care about me, and it's going to disappoint them to hear that I did this,” the man can be heard apologizing at one point. “I would like to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess. Never really knew it until now.”

“This is probably, like, jail time for life, huh? I mean, I would hope it is, for a guy like me,” the airline worker says at one point.

“Well,” a controller responds, “we're not going to worry or think about that. But could you start a left-hand turn, please?”

A air traffic controller later mentions getting a pilot to assist the man in landing the plane, but the man said he did not need the assistance since he had “played some video games before.”

When the air traffic controller tells the man that they need to land the “airplane safely and not hurt anybody on the ground,” the man replies: “I don't know man! I don't know! I don't want to. I was kinda hoping that was gonna be it. Ya know?”

The plane ultimately crashed on Ketron Island, a small island approximately 40 miles from the Seattle airport, CNN reports. Footage showed the plane erupt in a fiery blaze after it crashed.

via KOMO

Horizon Air CEO Gary Beck confirmed that the Q400 turboprop plane stolen by the airline worker “was not scheduled to fly at the time of the incident.”

“While we have not yet confirmed the identity of the employee, we have confirmed that all crew and passengers are accounted for. Air Traffic Control was in contact with the individual during the brief flight before it crashed on Ketron Island about an hour after it left Sea-Tac. No ground structures were involved in the crash,” Beck said in a statement Saturday. “We are working closely with the authorities and our own safety teams to thoroughly understand this incident.”

Alaska Airlines, the parent company of Horizon Air, confirmed there was a crash involving one of its aircraft.

“I want to share how incredibly sad all of us at Alaska are about this incident. Our heart is heavy for the family and friends of the person involved,” Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden said in a statement early Saturday. “We’re working to find out everything we possibly can about what happened, working with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Transportation Safety Board.”

According to CNN, the FBI will lead the investigation, and investigators will attempt to retrieve the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder on Saturday.

“Although response efforts to tonight's aircraft incident and the investigation are still ongoing, information gathered thus far does NOT suggest a terrorist threat or additional, pending criminal activity,” the agency said in a statement via Twitter on Friday night. “The FBI continues to work with our state, local, and federal partners to gather a complete picture of what transpired with tonight's unauthorized Horizon aircraft takeoff and crash.”

President Donald Trump was briefed on the incident and is monitoring the situation, according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

“The president has been briefed on the incident involving a stolen plane from Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle and is monitoring the situation as information becomes available,” Sanders said in a statement Saturday morning. “Federal authorities are assisting with the ongoing investigation which is being led by local authorities. We commend the interagency response effort for their swift action and protection of public safety.”