Normal Operations Resume At Sea-Tac Airport After Worker Steals, Crashes Airline Plane

by Bamidele Ogunberu Last updated on August 14th, 2018,

Seattle, Washington, USA :  “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.” Sea-Tac Airport‏ @SeaTacAirport 

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 — Sea-Tac Airport (@SeaTacAirport) August 11, 2018
The plane crashed on Ketorn Island outside Seattle. It’s a small island with about two dozen residents.

According to the Pierce County Sheriff, preliminary information indicated a mechanic from unknown airlines stole the plane. The Pierce County Sheriff tweeted the person was “doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills caused crash into Island.”

Stolen horizon airplane crashed into Ketron island. Preliminary info is that a mechanic from unknown airlines stole plane. Was doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills caused crash into Island — Pierce Co Sheriff (@PierceSheriff) August 11, 2018
The plane belonged to Horizon Air, which is owned by Alaska Airlines. In a statement, Alaska Airlines said they are “aware of an  incident involving an unauthorized take-off of a Horizon Air Q400.”

CBS Seattle affiliate KIRO-TV reporter Gary Horcher tweeted that all planes at SeaTac were grounded. KIRO-TV reported there was a ground stop at SeaTac until at least 11 p.m. PT.

Major security incident at SeaTac Airport. All planes are grounded—captain telling passengers a Horizon airliner was taken without authorization, and military jets are scrambling to intercept it. We’re working to confirm information now  — Gary Horcher (@GaryKIRO7) August 11, 2018

The empty regional Horizon Air passenger plane stolen from SeaTac Airport was reportedly forced down by two F-15 fighter jets Friday evening on Ketron Island southwest of Seattle. SeaTac Airport was temporarily grounded amid a “security threat,” according to a reports citing information from Horizon Air parent company Alaska Airlines.

Breaking: Stolen @AlaskaAir plane has crashed on Ketron Island. No passengers believed to be on board. — Claire Anderson (@ClaireKIRO7) August 11, 2018

In audio recordings from the air traffic control system, the mechanic says he’s “just a broken guy, got a few screws loose I guess. Never really knew it, until now.”

I’m listening through the archive of the radio chatter on the #seatac hijacking. Below are some of the clips.  — Jimmy Thomson (@jwsthomson) August 11, 2018

In another audio clip, the air traffic controller tries to give the man options for landing.

Here, the air traffic controller is trying to talk him into landing. pic.twitter.com/OxEe5T6JHJ — Jimmy Thomson (@jwsthomson) August 11, 2018

Watches con air once #SeaTac #Seattle pic.twitter.com/bzIMYQIZX7 — carrie bentley (@actualcarrie) August 11, 2018

SeaTac Airport was among the first official agencies to confirm that it was an airline employee.

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. — Sea-Tac Airport (@SeaTacAirport) August 11, 2018

This video from nearby Chambers Way showed the plane doing what a bystander described as a loop-the-loop, with fighter jets in pursuit.

Some dude stole a plane from #Seatac (Allegedly), did a loop-the-loop, ALMOST crashed into #ChambersBay, then crossed in front of our party, chased by fighter jets and subsequently crashed. Weird times.— bmbdgty (@drbmbdgty) August 11, 2018

The aircraft reportedly crashed near Ketron Island, near the Chambers Bay Golf Course.
Stolen horizon airplane crashed into Ketron island. Preliminary info is that a mechanic from unknown airlines stole plane. Was doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills caused crash into Island — Pierce Co Sheriff (@PierceSheriff) August 11, 2018

Helicopters and a Cessna are circling the presumed crash site on Ketron Island near the Chambers Bay Golf Club. N423QX is no longer in the air. It was scheduled to head to Medford at 855 PT before being stolen at #SEATAC. — Adam Chappelle (@adamchappelle) August 11, 2018

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. — Alaska Airlines (@AlaskaAir) August 11, 2018

The plane normally carries about 80 passengers and crew. It’s commonly flown between Seattle and Spokane, Portland, and regional flights. Sometimes it’s flown as far as Santa Barbara, but not often.

Some dude stole a plane from #Seatac (Allegedly), did a loop-the-loop, ALMOST crashed into #ChambersBay, then crossed in front of our party, chased by fighter jets and subsequently crashed. Weird times. pic.twitter.com/Ra4LcIhwfU — bmbdgty (@drbmbdgty) August 11, 2018

Apparently someone stole a plane from SeaTac? Saw two fighter jets fly overhead then smoke — McKenna Brown (@mckenna_brown) August 11, 2018

“Stolen horizon airplane crashed into Ketron island. Preliminary info is that a mechanic from unknown airlines stole plane. Was doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills caused crash into Island,” the Pierce County sheriff tweeted. “Male is confirmed a suicidal male. Acted alone he is 29 year old Pierce county residence. We are working back ground on him now.”

#BREAKING Alaska Airlines says it is aware of an incident involving an unauthorized take-off of a Horizon Air plane from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. This video was taken by a woman who lives south of the airport. She says this is the plane. (Courtney Jensen Junka) — Fox26 News (@KMPHFOX26) August 11, 2018

Okay this insane. A pilot on the plane in front of us just went rogue and took off on an empty plane bypassing orders from the tower. The tower ordered a full stop and they’re trying to communicate with that pilot. Whaaaaaat! — Ben Schaechter (@Bensign) August 11, 2018

Airport security concerns arise after stolen US plane crashes

A deadly crash of a passenger plane stolen by an airport employee in the Seattle area not only left the worker’s family members devastated but also raises airport security questions.

Richard Russell, 29, a Horizon Air ground service agent, got into a Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft on Friday night in a maintenance area at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and took off, according to Horizon sister carrier Alaska Airlines.

He flew for about one hour, often with attempts at aerial stunts, before crashing onto sparsely populated Ketron Island in Puget Sound, some 25 miles (40 km) southwest of the airport.

The 29-year-old was believed to have been killed in the crash.

Two armed F-15 jets were sent chasing after the plane but didn’t open fire, according to Cameron Hillier, North American Aerospace Defense Command spokesman.

The local sheriff’s department said on Twitter that either doing stunts “or lack of flying skills” caused the crash.

“This is a complete shock to us. We are devastated by these events and Jesus is truly the only one holding this family together right now,” said the Russell family.

The young man was not known to have had a pilot’s license, Horizon Air Chief Executive Gary Beck said at a news conference, and it was not clear how he was able to take off and fly as he did.

Russell had worked for Horizon Air for three and a half years and had clearance to tow planes, said Alaska Airlines Chief Executive Brad Tilden.

“The setup in aviation in America is we secure the airfield and then we have the mindset that we have employees that are credentialed and authorized to be there,” Tilden said, adding that the airline was working with federal authorities including FBI and Federal Aviation Administration to investigate the case.

It’s reported that the investigators were trying to retrieve the plane’s flight data and its cockpit voice recorder on Saturday.

Promising to cast a wide net in finding what happened and why, FBI said it doesn’t consider this a terror-related incident.

Experts say the plane crash exposed alarming gaps in airport security and is likely to bring a major review on the industry’s security measures.

“The fact he was out there by himself, towing the aircraft by himself … then moving the tracker out of the way, so he could get on the aircraft and move. The fact that all of that happened without even being noticed by anyone on the ground service crew, that is just phenomenal to me,” former FAA safety inspector David Soucie was quoted by CNN as saying.

Author

Bamidele Ogunberu

Bamidele Ogunberu

Staff Writer
Phone
Email

Leave a Reply