Airline Worker Steals Aircraft, Crashes Near Seattle

Alaska Airlines planes are seen at Seattle Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac Wash. Oct. 30 2013

Alaska Airlines planes are seen at Seattle Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac Wash. Oct. 30 2013

The employee had worked for Horizon Air for three and a half years and had clearance to tow planes, airline and airport officials said at a news conference.

The stolen plane was a twin-engine turboprop Q400 belonging to Horizon Air, its parent company Alaska Airlines said on Twitter. Investigators were working to find out how an airline employee stole the plane Friday and crashed it after being chased by military jets that were quickly scrambled to intercept the aircraft. The employee - whose identity has not been released - stole the passenger plane from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport around 8 PM.

"There is a protocol to not allow anyone singularly to get onboard an aircraft", CNN safety analyst David Soucie said.

They referenced the recordings of him talking to air traffic controllers and said and that it's clear Russell, who went by the nickname "Beebo", didn't intend to harm anyone and "he was right in saying that there are so many people who loved him".

One witness filmed the plane doing a large loop-the-loop, which they first thought was part of an air show rehearsal. "I'm a broken guy who had a few screws loose. Never really knew it until now".

Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said the man "did something foolish and may well have paid with his life". It did not elaborate.

He added: "I'm sorry about this, I hope it doesn't ruin your day [.]".

"Oh, Richard", said the controller, "We're not going to worry or think about that".

"Alright", the man in the airplane responds. "The kid I know wouldn't do that". "But holy smokes, I got to stop looking at the fuel, because it's going down quick".

The governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, thanked the Air National Guard from Washington and OR on Twitter "for scrambling jets to keep Washingtonians safe".

"At this time, we believe he was the only one in the aircraft but of course, we haven't confirmed that at the crash site", said Jay Tabb, chief of the FBI's Seattle division.

The jets were armed but did not fire on the aircraft, Air Force Capt. Cameron Hillier, a NORAD spokesman, told The Washington Post on Saturday. Those pilots are trained for moments like tonight and showed they are ready and capable.

Questions have been raised about how a plane can be stolen from a busy airport. John Waldron was walking along a trail near the bay when he noticed the two military jets following a plane doing aerobatics. He said the plane crashed in a wooded area.

"Everybody's stunned. that something like this would happen", said recently-retired Christenson.

Kethleen Reichel said she watched the planes pass by for about two minutes. Initial information had said he was an airline mechanic. Ketron Island is a sparsely populated island 25 miles (40 km) southwest of the airport. It appeared the ground worker used a tow vehicle to rotate the plane 180 degrees on the tarmac before climbing into the cockpit, taxiing to a runway and taking off, Alaska executives said. Russell said he was having a "blast" and had learned to fly from video games.

During the radio exchange, an air traffic control personnel by the name of Captain Bill attempted to steer Rich away from flying over the airport in order to avoid a collision that would risk the lives of multiple people. "To our knowledge, he didn't have a pilot's license". Horizon Air is a division of Alaskan that flies shorter routes in the western US.

No structures on the ground were damaged, Alaska Airlines said.

"The greatest threat we have to aviation is the insider threat", Erroll Southers, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and transportation security expert, told The Associated Press.

"This is a complete shock to us", the statement read.

On Saturday morning, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told media that President Donald Trump was briefed on the incident and is now "monitoring the situation" in Seattle.

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