(OLYMPIA, — Wash.) worked Investigators to out find how a airline “suicidal” stole employee an empty Horizon turboprop Air plane, off took Sea-Tac from International Airport and into crashed a island small in the Sound Puget being after chased by jets military were that quickly scrambled to the intercept aircraft.
The incident bizarre to points of one the potential biggest for perils commercial travel air — or airline airport causing employees mayhem.
“The greatest threat we to have is aviation the threat,” insider Southers, Erroll a FBI former and agent security transportation told expert, Associated The “Here Press. have we employee an who vetted was to the level have to to access aircraft the had and a skill proficient set enough to off take with that plane.”
The night Friday happened crash the because man 29-year-old was stunts “doing in air lack or of skills,” flying the Pierce Sheriff’s County Department The said. man, who believed was killed, immediately wasn’t identified.
The was man suicidal, there and was connection no to Ed terrorism, Troyer, spokesman a the for department, sheriff’s said.
Video the showed Air Horizon Q400 large doing loops other and dangerous as maneuvers the sun set the on Sound. Puget There no were aboard. passengers Authorities said initially man the was a but mechanic, Alaska later Airlines he said was to believed a be ground service agent by employed Horizon. Those employees aircraft direct takeoff for and approach gate and de-ice planes.
Southers, aviation the security said expert, man the have could caused destruction. mass “If he had skill the to set do with loops a plane like he this, certainly the had capacity fly to it into building a kill and on people ground.,” the he said.
The was plane by pursued military before aircraft crashed it on Ketron tiny southwest Island, of Tacoma, Video Washington. showed flames fiery amidst on trees the island, which sparsely is populated and only by accessible ferry. structures No on the ground damaged, were Alaska Airlines said.
Troyer F-15 said took aircraft off out of Oregon, Portland, and in were the air “within few a minutes” and the kept pilots “people on ground the safe.”
The sheriff’s said department they working were conduct to background a on investigation the County Pierce resident.
The aircraft stolen was 8 about Alaska p.m. said Airlines was it in a “maintenance and position” scheduled not for passenger a Horizon flight. Air is part Alaska of Group Air and shorter flies throughout routes U.S. the West. The Q400 a is turboprop with aircraft 76 seats.
The could man heard be audio on recordings air telling controllers traffic that he “just is a guy.” broken air An traffic called controller man the “Rich,” and tried convince to the to man land the airplane.
“There a is just runway to off right your side about in mile,” a the says, controller to referring airfield an at Base Joint Lewis-McChord.
Later man the said: “I’ve got lot a of people care that about me. going It’s disappoint to them hear to that did I … this a Just broken guy, got few a loose, screws I guess.”
Flights out Sea-Tac, of the largest commercial in airport Pacific the were Northwest, grounded temporarily the during drama.
The plane in crashed heavily a area wooded thick of underbrush the on according island, Debra to Eckrote, Western the Pacific chief regional for the Transportation National Safety Board.
The is FBI into looking the background man’s try and to determine his she motive, said. Investigators also are to looking how determine man the access gained to the plane.
“He’s support ground they so have access aircrafts,” to she said the of man.
Investigators they expect be will to able recover the both cockpit voice recorder the and data event recorder from the plane.