Commercial airliner is ‘hijacked from Seattle-Tacoma Airport’: reports

Airport employee HIJACKS an empty 76-seat commercial plane from Seattle Airport then crashes into a ball of flames on an island 25 miles away after being pursued by F-15 fighter jets

  • Horizon Air Q400 stolen from Seattle-Tacoma Airport by a suicidal mechanic who flew in loop-the-loops
  • F-15 fighters scrambled ‘within minutes’ and directed the plane from populated areas towards the coast
  • Plunged into a heavily wooded area on the sparsely-populated Ketron Island and was engulfed by flames
  • Police described the pilot as a 29-year-old mechanic who lived in Pierce County but did not name him
  • But extraordinary audio from the airport traffic control tower sees officials addressing the pilot as ‘Rich’
  • ‘I’m not ready to bring it down yet,’ Rich says, before joking about how he will have to do ‘jail time for life’ 
  • Friday’s incident caused travel chaos with planes stranded on the runway and dozens of flights disrupted 
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A suicidal airport employee on Friday hijacked an empty commercial plane from Seattle-Tacoma Airport before crashing it into an island 25 miles away after being pursued by F-15 fighter jets.

The 76-seater Horizon Air turboprop Q400 took off at around 8pm, and two F-15 fighter jets scrambled from Portland ‘minutes later’ to intercept it, according to Pierce County Sheriff’s Office. 

Witnesses described seeing the aircraft performing barrel rolls and loop-the-loops as the military planes directed it away from highly-populated areas and towards Ketron Island, where it crashed into a ball of flame. 

While still in the air, the pilot was heard telling traffic controllers he was ‘just a broken guy’ before telling them he was preparing for ‘jail time for life’. Police blamed ‘doing stunts in the air and a lack of flying skills’ for the crash.

The pilot was a 29-year-old mechanic from Pierce County, Washington, who was ‘suicidal’ and acting alone, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said. He has not been named, but air traffic controllers addressed him as ‘Rich’.

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These images show the hijacked Horizon Air Q400 which took off from Seattle-Tacoma Airport before crashing 25 miles away in south Puget Sound (left, in the air; right, after the crash)

Shortly after the plane took off, traffic controllers were heard on an Internet livestream speaking to a man identified as ‘Rich’.

‘There is the runway just off your right side in about a mile, do you see that?’ the traffic controller said.

‘Oh those guys will try to rough me up if I try land there…,’ Rich replied. ‘I think I might mess something up there too. I wouldn’t want to do that. Oh they probably have got anti-aircraft.’

‘They don’t have any of that stuff, we are just trying to find you a place to land safely.’

‘Yeah, not quite ready to bring it down just yet, but holy smokes I need to stop looking at the fuel ‘cos it’s going down quick.’

‘OK, Rich, if you could, could you start a left-hand turn and we’ll take you down to the south-east.’

‘This is probably jail time for life, huh? I would hope it is for a guy like me.‘ The audio segment then stopped. 

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Ketron Island, where the plane went down, is a densely wooded area home to 24 people, according to the 2000 census. None of the island’s residents were thought to have been harmed.

Questions will now be asked about security at the airport and how an unqualified worker was given access to the plane. it’s also unclear how he was able to take off unhindered. 

Seattle-Tacoma airport said: ‘An airline employee conducted an unauthorized takeoff without passengers at Sea-Tac; aircraft has crashed in south Puget Sound. Normal operations at Sea-Tac Airport have resumed.’

Alaska Airlines said: ‘We are aware of an incident involving an unauthorized take-off of a Horizon Air Q400. We believe there are no passengers on board. More information as we learn more.’  


Images taken at the crash site on Ketron Island showed the remains of the aircraft engulfed by flames


Emergency services vehicles at the ferry terminal in Steilacoom, Washington, near by the suspected crash site


Alaska Airlines, which owns Horizon Air, confirmed that the plane had taken off without permission and later crashed


Police said the pilot was a 29-year-old mechanic from Pierce County, Washington. They said he was acting alone and was ‘suicidal’. His name has not yet been released

The Federal Aviation Administration said: ‘We can’t confirm anything at this time. We’re trying to get accurate information about what is actually going on. Without confirming anything, a stolen aircraft would be a security issue.

‘The FAA is not a security agency, although we work closely with other government agencies on security issues.’ 

The incident is now being investigated by the FBI and military. It is thought to be the first fatal incident in the US involving a commercial airliner since 9/11. 

Horizon Air is part of Alaska Air Group and flies shorter routes throughout the U.S. West. 

Dailymail.com has contacted the airport for comment.

‘This will be jail time for life, huh?’ Mechanic speaks to air traffic control moments before crash

Shortly after the plane took off, traffic controllers were heard on an Internet livestream speaking to a man identified as ‘Rich’.

‘There is the runway just off your right side in about a mile, do you see that?’ the traffic controller said.

‘Oh those guys will try to rough me up if I try land there…,’ Rich replied. ‘I think I might mess something up there too. I wouldn’t want to do that. Oh they probably have got anti-aircraft.’

‘They don’t have any of that stuff, we are just trying to find you a place to land safely.’

‘Yeah, not quite ready to bring it down just yet, but holy smokes I need to stop looking at the fuel ‘cos it’s going down quick.’

‘OK, Rich, if you could, could you start a left-hand turn and we’ll take you down to the south-east.’

‘This is probably jail time for life, huh? I would hope it is for a guy like me. ‘ 

The audio then stopped. 


A map showing Ketron Island, a heavily wooded area inhabited by 24 people, according to the 2000 census


A large Alaska Air aircraft maintenance building is viewed on takeoff from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in this undated file photo

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