“Just a broken guy”: Pilot of stolen Horizon Air plane tells controllers before crashing.
SEA-TAC AIRPORT, Wash. – Alaska Airlines has yet to confirm the identity of the 29-year-old man who unlawfully flew the Horizon Air plane before crashing on Ketron Island about an hour after leaving Sea-Tac Airport on Friday.
“I want to share how incredibly sad all of us at Alaska are about this incident,” said Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Airlines in a press conference this morning. “Our heart is heavy for the family and friends of the person involved.”
The suspect worked for Horizon Air for three and a half years, handling the baggage, cleaning the plane, and was ‘tow certified,’ allowing him to run the little tractors that pull the planes. He went through a 10-year background check to get the job.
Alaska airlines is working with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Transportation Safety Board to find out exactly what happened that Friday night. So far, there was one person aboard the airplane, an employee of Horizon Air, who was operating the aircraft.
“I want to thank the employees of Horizon Air and our guests,” said Gary Beck, President and CEO of Horizon Air. “Our primary objective is to do everything possible to support all of you.”
FBI and National Transportation Safety Board investigators plan Saturday to visit the crash site of a stolen Horizon Air passenger plane on Ketron Island near Steilacoom.
Horizon Air said a ground services employee boarded the plane at about 8 p.m. Friday night and took off from Sea-Tac Airport. No passengers were on the plane.
Two F-15 jets were scrambled from the 142nd fighter squadron in Portland. As those jets closed on the Horizon turboprop about an hour into the flight, it nose dived and crashed.
Investigators will be looking for the cockpit voice recorder and the data recorder from the plane hoping they will provide new clues about the incident.
“We already have the air traffic and pilot communications, but he might have been talking to himself in the cockpit and they might be able to get some additional information so that’s where that’s valuable,” said NTSB Regional Chief Debra Eckrote.
Eckrote said crews will try to recover the body of the pilot. Investigators will also be looking into how an employee could steal a plane and manage to take off at a major airport.
The plane flew very erratically. At one point, the plane turned upside down and dove toward Puget Sound as horrified witnesses watched from the ground. The plane pulled up just above the water.
Air traffic controllers were in contact with the pilot during his flight. At times, he sounded distraught.
Pilot: “…just a broken guy. A few screws loose…just now realizing it.”
At one point, controllers tried to convince him to land the plane at the McChord runway at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Controller: “There is the runway just off to your right side in about a mile. Do you seen that? That’s the McChord field.”
Pilot: “Oh man, those guys will rough me up if I tried landing there. I think I might mess something up there, too. I wouldn’t want to do that. They probably got anti-aircraft!”
Controller: “Nah, they don’t have any of that stuff. We’re just trying to find a place for you to land safely.”
Pilot: “Yeah, I’m not quite ready to bring it down just yet. Holy smokes! I gotta quit looking at the fuel ’cause it’s going down quick.”
Controller: “If you could, could you start a left hand turn? And we’ll take you down to the southeast please.”
Pilot: “This is probably jail time for life, huh? I would hope it is for a guy like me.”
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office said the pilot of the stolen plane is a 29-year-old man, apparently suicidal.
Alaska Airlines said the plane involved in the incident is a Bombardier Q400.
That plane is 107 feet nine inches long with a wingspan of 93 feet three inches and a cruising altitude of 25,000 feet. It normally contains 76 seats.
The Q400 has a cruising speed of 414 miles per hour and a crew of two pilots and two flight attendants.
Watch: Video shows stolen Horizon Air Q400 turn upside down and dive toward Puget Sound before it crashed on Ketron Island Friday night.
(Video: John Waldron)http://aer24.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/img_5971.trim_.mov