Military Jets Scramble After Airline Worker Steals Plane

Horizon Air plane out of Sea-Tac eventually crashed on island outside Tacoma
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2018 6:00 AM CDT
Military Jets Scramble After Airline Worker Steals Plane
A plane flies past a control tower at Sea-Tac International Airport Friday evening in Seattle, Wash.   (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Air traffic controllers expecting a quiet Friday evening got anything but as an incident developed out of Seattle. Airport officials and local authorities report that around 8pm local time, a 29-year-old ground service agent with Horizon Air stole a 76-seat turboprop from Sea-Tac International Airport, took to the skies, and may have even done stunts above Puget Sound as military F-15 jets flew after him, CNN and ABC News report. After about an hour in the air, the passenger-less plane crashed on Ketron Island, about 40 miles away from the airport. The Pierce County Sheriff's Department said the unidentified pilot, whom it called "suicidal," was pronounced dead after the crash, and that the crash wasn't caused by the military jets. As the situation unfolded, air traffic controllers could be heard trying to guide the man safely back down to the ground.

"Yeah, I'm not quite ready to bring it down just yet," the pilot, referred to by controllers as Rich or Richard, said as they tried to get him to land at a nearby military airfield (you can hear audio at the Seattle Times.) "Those guys will rough me up if I tried landing there. ... This is probably jail time for life, huh?" At one point, the pilot refers to himself as a "broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess," per the Washington Post. Sheriff Paul Porter says the act wasn't terrorism. "Most terrorists don't do loops over the water," he tells ABC. "This might have been a joyride gone terribly wrong." His office tweeted it couldn't be sure if what the pilot was doing was stunts or a "lack of flying skills" before the plane went down. The CEO of Alaska Airlines, which owns Horizon Air, expressed sadness for the family of the pilot and said the airline is working with the FAA, FBI, and NTSB to investigate what happened. (More Seattle stories.)

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