Seattle – A disturbed ground worker made off with a large Horizon Air Q400 aircraft and flew it around for an hour before crashing on an Island.
Norad jet fighters trailed the aircraft as the inexperienced flier talked about his last adventure with calm air traffic controllers trying to make him land.
At one point the ‘pilot’ talked to air traffic about his mental state, saying he had some “screws loose” but just didn’t realize it “until now.”
He expressed concern about how fast he was burning fuel. He was also worried that he’d go to jail if he landed the empty aircraft.
“I’ve got a lot of people that care about me,” he told an air traffic controller who was trying to make him land safely. “It’s going to disappointed them to hear I did this.”
“I’d 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.”
When air traffic told him there was an airport to the plane’s right, about a mile away at McChord Air force base, “Rick” worried that he’d likely mess up something there.
He also worried he’d be roughed up or shot at with anti aircraft guns.
At one point the flier suggested he had adequate knowledge of flying, saying he had learned by playing video games.
In the end the plane raced toward the ground and crashed in a wooded area near Tacoma.
In a late night statement, Horizon Air President Gary Beck said the “Q400, which was taken from Sea-Tac International Airport, 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.”
“We are working closely with the authorities and our own safety teams to thoroughly understand this incident.”
Alaska Air CEO Brad Tilden also took a similar position – illustrating that the incident was simply a tragic episode.
“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.”
“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. We are giving those investigators our full support and cooperation,” Tilden said.
“With these investigations underway, our focus will remain on supporting the family of the individual involved, the broader Alaska and Horizon family, and our communities and guests.”