Saturday, August 11, 2018

de Havilland Canada DHC-8-402Q Dash 8, registered to Horizon Air Industries Inc and operated by the individual as an unauthorized flight, N449QX: Fatal accident occurred August 10, 2018 on Ketron Island, near Steilacoom, Pierce County, Washington

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Steilacoom, WA
Accident Number: WPR18FA220
Date & Time: 08/10/2018, 2043 PDT
Registration: N449QX
Aircraft: De Havilland DHC8
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Unknown 

On August 10, 2018, about 2043 Pacific daylight time, a De Havilland DHC-8-402, N449QX, was destroyed when it impacted trees on Ketron Island, near Steilacoom, WA. The non-certificated pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to Horizon Air Industries Inc. and operated by the individual as an unauthorized flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed in the area at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed. The airplane departed from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Seattle, Washington, about 1932 for an unknown destination.

Horizon Air personnel reported that the individual was employed as a ground service agent and had access to the airplanes on the ramp.

The investigation of this event is being conducted under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The NTSB provided requested technical assistance to the FBI, and any material generated by the NTSB is under the control of the FBI. The NTSB does not plan to issue a report or open a public docket. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: De Havilland
Registration: N449QX
Model/Series: DHC8 402
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Flag carrier (121) 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light:
Observation Facility, Elevation:  KTIW, 292 ft msl
Observation Time: 2053 PDT
Distance from Accident Site: 8 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 18°C / 14°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 7 knots / , 240°
Lowest Ceiling:
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.98 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Seattle, WA (SEA)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  47.148056, -122.637500 (est)

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

The Port of Seattle is moving ahead with a $325,000 review of the theft and crash of a Horizon Air turboprop Aug. 10 from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

The port on Tuesday authorized spending an additional $275,000 and amending its contract with Ross & Baruzzini to develop a federally regulated after-action report on the incident. The combined total of the two phases of the review and report is estimated at $325,000, according to a port memo accompanying the agenda item.

The port plans to publish results and recommendations of the report in December.

The empty plane was taken by Richard “Beebo” Russell, 29, of Sumner, who worked as part of the ground crew for Horizon Air. He used a tow vehicle to rotate the parked plane 180 degrees before climbing into the cockpit, taxiing and taking flight, according to airline officials.

After staying in flight and performing aerobatics in view of homes in the region for more than an hour, the plane crashed on Ketron Island. Russell was the only casualty.

The review “will include all information relevant to the aircraft abduction event, as well as actions that occurred in the hours prior to, during, and after the event leading to full resumption of operations.”

In addition, the report will review measures airports and airlines can take to prevent another theft and examine ways to anticipate and deter “erratic behavior” of employees who have passed required background checks.

In addition to port’s review, Sea-Tac Airport is leading a national group looking at airport security issues, specifically aircraft security and employee wellness.

“Safety and security are not only our most important responsibilities, but also incredibly personal to all of us whose family and friends are passengers, airport employees and nearby residents,” Port Commission President Courtney Gregoire said in the port’s news release.

SEATTLE -- We’re learning new details Friday night about the moments that led up to a man stealing a plane at Sea-Tac International Airport three weeks ago. 

Richard Russell, 29,  a Horizon Air ground service agent, stole the plane, flew around the area, performing loops and barrel rolls, and crashed on Ketron Island on August 10. He died in the crash.

Q13 New is combing through emails to learn more. All of the new information comes to us from a public records request. More than 800 emails between the Port of Seattle, Alaska Air Group, the FBI, and other state and federal agencies shows what happened and how much officials knew as the incident was unfolding.

“They had finally landed, and the pilot said somebody had stolen an airplane,” said one man waiting to pick up his daughter from Sea-Tac on August 10.

Confusion and concern swept through Sea-Tac Airport. Q13 News is now learning intricate details about that night in several emails and documents released by the Port of Seattle.

Russell used his own employee badge to enter Sea-Tac secure grounds and parked his car sometime just after 2 p.m.  It was about five hours later when Port of Seattle says he stole the Horizon Air plane. He took off on a short runway, enabling him to get up in the air quickly without having to wait behind other planes.

“Who’s the aircraft on Runway 16 center?” asked one air traffic controller.

“He came flying out of the cargo area,” responded another controller.

“Call and scramble now!” responded the first air traffic controller.

Right after that, the first radio contact between Russell and the Seattle Ramp Tower. The data we’ve collected so far doesn’t show any other contact between Russell or anyone else, including air traffic control or law enforcement, until after Russell had already gotten into the plane, started it up, crossed runways and began takeoff.  He flew south, dangerously close to homes below.

Russell was one of 1,200 airport employees with an Airport Movement Area (or AMA) badge. Port of Seattle says 24,000 badged employees operate during the peak summer season.

In an email, a terminal operations manager wrote, “Richard Russell did not have any recorded citations.”

Still, Port of Seattle made security changes in the days following the incident as announced in an August 13 press conference. A Q13 News request for more information about changes to security or protocol was denied, citing tactical security concerns.

“We do have an additional security presence at our cargo locations, which you may have known have occurred. We have a stepped-up security presence throughout this airport,” said Commission President Courtney Gregoire.

Q13 News also requested video of the runway and the cargo area where Richard Russell entered the plane and then took off. All video is being held by the TSA for now as this investigation continues. Part of our request has been denied, but other records should be released to us in the coming weeks.

An Alaska Airlines Bombardier Q400 operated by Horizon Air taking off from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on August 11th, a day after Horizon Air ground crew member Richard Russell took a similar plane from the Seattle airport.

The Wall Street Journal
By Andy Pasztor and Andrew Tangel
Updated Aug. 20, 2018 8:59 p.m. ET

Federal investigators have tentatively determined the ground-services worker who stole an empty Horizon Air turboprop earlier this month ended up crashing the airliner in a suicidal dive, according to people familiar with the probe.

Horizon Air employee Richard Russell was at the controls when the twin-engine aircraft’s nose was pointed downward, these people said, smashing into a sparsely inhabited island near Seattle on the evening of Aug. 10. Mr. Russell died in the fiery crash, which has prompted government, airline and airport officials to reassess employee screening and aircraft security issues nationwide.

Horizon is owned by Alaska Air Group Inc.

Information downloaded from the Bombardier Inc. Q400’s flight-data recorder shows both of its engines were generating power and the plane hadn’t exhausted its fuel supply, one of these people said. It hadn’t been clear from early indications whether the plane, which didn’t have any passengers or crew on board, ran out of fuel or had been deliberately flown into the ground.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is heading the probe, declined to comment, pending further analysis of evidence. The National Transportation Safety Board, which is providing technical assistance, declined to comment.

During the roughly hour long aerial drama over Puget Sound, Mr. Russell had suggested to air-traffic controllers he didn’t plan to land, according to a recording of radio transmissions during the event. Mr. Russell also expressed concerns to controllers about depleting his fuel supply.

At this point, findings indicate that Mr. Russell carried out “a controlled flight into the ground,” according to one of the people familiar with the status of the investigation.

Portions of the cockpit-voice recorder downloaded by the safety board, which haven’t become public, captured Mr. Russell talking to himself and sending what may have been goodbye messages or apologies to friends and family, according to another person familiar with the investigation. This person didn’t describe details of the messages, and none of that recording has been released.

Investigators won’t reach final conclusions until they definitively rule out disorientation or a sudden medical issue with the unlicensed pilot during the last few moments of the flight. But experts at the safety board, working together with representatives of the FBI, the plane’s manufacturer and engine maker Pratt & Whitney, see the data gathered so far strongly pointing to suicide, according to these people. Pratt & Whitney is a unit of United Technologies Corp.

The investigative progress comes as industry and government officials consider potential additional safeguards to prevent a repeat of such rogue flights by airline workers and others. Among other things, security experts are discussing use of some type of digital lockout device, intended to prevent unauthorized engine starts.

Mr. Russell initially used a tug to move the turboprop from a cargo area at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. He then climbed behind the controls, taxied the plane to a nearby runway, revved up the engines and took off without clearance or a flight plan.

Airliners typically don’t rely on keys or other locking devices to keep someone from starting their engines. Traditionally, carriers have relied on vetting workers—including background checks and drug and alcohol tests—to prevent unauthorized access into cockpits on parked aircraft

But now, some veteran safety and security experts are considering if something more is needed. “There may be a relatively easy way” to avoid a repeat of the fatal incident, according to former NTSB member Richard Healing, by requiring a code to be entered into a plane’s flight-computers before an engine start can occur.

David L. Mayer, former managing director of the safety board, said such a software or hardware fix “would create a great deal of security that doesn’t exist now.” But, he added, “The technical feasibility of such a solution will vary across different types of airplanes.”

Others are focusing on the importance of stepped-up mental health screening and treatment for airline employees, particularly those undergoing unusual personal stress. The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to ask an advisory committee to make recommendations to ensure all carriers have adequate programs, according to someone involved in the process.

But William Yantiss, a former senior safety official at United Airlines and currently an executive vice president of aviation services provider Argus International Inc., sees the limits of such efforts. He said airlines in the U.S. are putting more resources into mental health programs, but cultural issues are hampering the effectiveness of programs in other regions.

In an interview, Mr. Yantiss said security experts have long recognized that airliners parked at night in a remote portion of an airfield, as the Horizon Air plane was, pose a heightened threat even though they are normally under video surveillance.

Original article can be found here ➤

The barrel roll that Richard Russell pulled off during his flight Friday evening looked sloppy to experienced pilots.

But the fact that the baggage handler completed the trick at all was evidence to some observers that Russell, who died when the Horizon Air plane he stole crashed into an island in South Puget Sound, may have taken lessons or otherwise prepared for his flight.

Stoking the speculation was Russell’s response, captured in audio recordings posted online, to an air traffic controller asking if he was comfortable flying the twin-engine turboprop plane.

“I’ve played video games before,” Russell said. “I know what I’m doing a little bit.”

It’s unclear whether the 29-year-old, a member of a generation that grew up around video games, was joking about his familiarity with a joystick, or leaving investigators a clue as to how he was able to start the aircraft, taxi onto a busy runway, take off and mix in aerial acrobatics for more than an hour before he went down.

Horizon Chief Executive Officer Gary Beck told reporters that Russell didn’t appear to have a pilot’s license. Yet aviation instructors, pilots and safety experts suspect that he had some sort of training, whether from a flight-simulator game or some form of lessons.

Mary Schiavo, an aviation attorney and former inspector general of the Department of Transportation, said video of some of his turns looked smooth, or “coordinated” in pilot parlance, keeping the plane’s nose from veering to one side or the other.

“It looked like he had some skills,” she said. “It looked like he had touched the controls of an airplane before.”

Though Schiavo and other experts think Russell’s flying prowess indicated prior experience in the cockpit, one longtime family friend, who works for the Federal Aviation Administration, said that he did not have any knowledge of Russell going to flight ground school in Alaska, where Russell lived before moving to Oregon and, later, Washington. He also never saw Russell use a flight simulator and did not know how he figured out how to fly the Bombardier Q400 plane.

“For us it was a shock that he would be able to take off in that,” Mike Criss, a resident of Wasilla, Alaska, who has known Russell for more than two decades, told the Anchorage Daily News on Monday.

Criss said that his son, Zac, and Russell were boyhood friends, and that Russell had a personality like a magnet.

“He had such a sense of humor. It drew you in,” Criss said. “Everybody wanted to be around him. I’ve never met anybody like that before or since.”

A Horizon Q400 pilot, speaking on the condition of anonymity, listed some of the hurdles Russell would have encountered Friday. At the outset, the plane’s controls would have been locked. Starting the engines requires a precise sequence of switches and levers. And during acceleration at takeoff, pilots steer left and right with rudder pedals, instead of the obvious control yoke in front of them.

Video games could have helped with some of that.

Games like Microsoft’s Flight Simulator franchise, a favorite of computer desktop pilots for decades, are complex and realistic, rendering models of cockpits full of switches and instruments patterned after the real thing. Enthusiasts can add to the realism of that experience with hardware that replaces keyboards and mice with airplane-style controls such as rudder pedals or a steering-wheel-like yoke.

The main flight simulation games on the market don’t feature the Canadian-built Q400 Russell flew among their default options for digital fliers, but a community of game developers has filled that gap. One modification, which makes the plane available for Microsoft Flight Simulator X, is listed online for $59.95, and YouTube videos offer tutorials on tasks like plane startup.

“You can learn procedures” from simulators, said Jim Grant, owner of Northway Aviation, which trains private pilots at Everett’s Paine Field.

Beyond that, he said, their utility is limited.

Would-be pilots who come to Northway for training sometimes brag to instructors about familiarity with flight simulators, Grant said.

“We usually laugh at them,” he said. “Flying an airplane is totally different than playing a game.”

Russell may have picked up some knowledge of the aircraft over the course of his job.

In addition to baggage handling, his work as a gate-service agent included work on two-person tow crews responsible for moving aircraft around gates and maintenance areas. During that process, one gate-service agent sits in the cockpit as a second drives a tractor pulling the wheels below the plane’s nose.

It’s not uncommon in that environment, pilots and aviation experts say, for pilots to chat with ground-crew personnel curious about plane mechanics or cockpit controls.

Once airborne Friday, Russell showed off a basic familiarity with the cockpit, wearing the communications headset, watching the fuel gauge, and talking with an air traffic controller about how to pressurize the plane, a procedure he apparently did not know how to do.

He also pulled off a series of stunts, including the barrel roll, maneuvers that Beck, Horizon’s CEO, called “incredible.”

“On any other day that was windy, or that was cloudy, or had [bad] weather, I don’t think he would’ve been able to pull a stunt like that,” said Jeffrey A. Lustick, a Bellingham aviation lawyer and pilot.

Original article can be found here ➤

Friends of Richard Russell at a news conference Saturday in Orting, Wash. Mr. Russell, a ground-services worker for Horizon Air, stole a plane on Friday, and eventually crashed on a sparsely populated island off the coast in south Puget Sound.

The Wall Street Journal 
By Andrew Tangel, Alison Sider, Andy Pasztor and Jay Greene
Updated Aug. 12, 2018 11:08 p.m. ET

SEATAC, Wash.—At first, air-traffic controllers didn’t seem alarmed when Richard Russell climbed into the cockpit of a small airliner here Friday evening, spooled up its twin turboprop engines and trundled from its parking spot near a cargo area.

Ground-services workers like Mr. Russell sometimes shuttle planes between locations at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and other fields without promptly checking in with the tower as required.

This time, though, the 29-year-old, untrained as a pilot but with a penchant for airplane videogames, headed for the runway, opened up the throttle and roared into the air without clearance or a flight plan. It wasn’t clear whether the theft was a joy ride, a hijacking, a terrorist attack or a suicide mission.

Mr. Russell flew for about an hour toward Tacoma over Puget Sound, a meandering trip punctuated by moves that included a roll and a flip and a soundtrack of calm, sometimes wistful radio exchanges with controllers trying to determine just what his motives were before he finally plunged to his death.

In Mr. Russell’s more than three years at Alaska Air Group Inc.’s commuter arm, Horizon Air, his job at times required him to know how to operate an airplane’s controls, to use its brakes, start its electric generator and use its radios to communicate with air-traffic control, according to a former supervisor. But it didn’t include starting a plane’s engines. On Friday, he did just that.

An air-traffic controller radioed the plane as it moved from a cargo area toward the runway without authorization.

“The Dash-8 on 16C, say your call sign,” the controller said, according to independently recorded air-traffic control radio communications. There was no reply as the plane kept rolling.

The Q400 version of the Dash-8 lifted off around 7:32 p.m. PDT.

The military was quickly alerted. Less than 10 minutes later, two F-15 jet fighters scrambled from Portland, Ore., and began dogging the plane, ready to shoot it down if necessary, according to a senior military commander familiar with the timeline.

Though Mr. Russell didn’t have a pilot’s license, according to his employer, he deftly performed a series of aerobatic rolls and steep dives with the 76-seat turboprop airliner that left experts and onlookers in awe, moves that would have been daunting for an experienced Q400 pilot.

Horizon Chief Executive Gary Beck called the moves “incredible maneuvers by the aircraft...I don’t know how he achieved the experience he did.”

Mr. Russell’s unlikely talent was one of many elements that added an extraordinary quality to the tragic and frightening episode.

Also startling was the way he indicated he had learned to fly from computer simulations.

“I don’t need that much help. I’ve played some videogames before,” Mr. Russell told air-traffic controllers. Such computerized flight-simulator software could have depicted the same workhorse turboprop model he stole on Friday, said government and industry air-safety experts. It is widely available for purchase and can be run on normal home computers.

At another point, he said, “I know how to put the landing gear down.” Then, apparently revealing suicidal intent, he added: “I really wasn’t planning on landing it.”

He also indicated familiarity with at least some of the controls and more than a cursory understanding of cockpit layout and aircraft operations, including a specific reference to the system that regulates cabin pressure.

At other times Mr. Russell seemed in over his head. “That’s all mumbo jumbo, I have no idea what all that means. I wouldn’t know how to punch it in,” he told controllers at one point. It was unclear what he was referring to.

The drama played out in skies over Puget Sound, south and west of Seattle, as people on the ground watched him loop and dive, at times afraid he would crash into them, according to accounts on social media.

Controllers tried to instruct Mr. Russell to stay low, avoid populated areas and try to land the aircraft, according to unofficial air-traffic control audio. They brought in an airline captain to help talk Mr. Russell through the flight commands.

By 8:47 p.m. local time, air-traffic control had lost contact with him, according to Alaska Air CEO Brad Tilden. Horizon is an Alaska affiliate.

Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said the plane crashed on a small, sparsely populated island off the coast in south Puget Sound. On Saturday at 1:38 p.m. local time. Mr. Russell was pronounced dead.

Some who knew Mr. Russell were shocked by his actions.

“It may seem difficult for those watching at home to believe, but Beebo was a warm, compassionate man,” family friend Mike Mathews said in a statement on behalf of Mr. Russell’s friends and family and using a nickname for Mr. Russell. “We are devastated by these events.”

Horizon said Mr. Russell was hired in February 2015 as a ground-service agent and went through criminal background checks every few years. He wasn’t known to have a criminal record.

The former Horizon supervisor described Mr. Russell as a friendly co-worker with a can-do attitude. “He was very good,” the former supervisor said. “He was always out there. You never had to go looking for him.”

DeAndre Halbert, who worked with Mr. Russell until eight months ago, said Mr. Russell was even-keeled and didn’t seem particularly interested in becoming a pilot. He was known to be intelligent and bookish—constantly reading a novel.

In a video he appears to have created and posted to YouTube and a personal website in December, Mr. Russell said his job could be monotonous. “I lift a lot of bags. Like, a lot of bags. So many bags,” he said. “But it allows me to do some pretty cool things too,” he added, as the video displayed footage and images from his travels to France, Ireland, Alaska, and other destinations.

“It evens out in the end,” he said.

Mr. Russell told the controller he wanted to apologize for what he did to the people he cares about.

“I would like to apologize to each and every one of them,” he said. ”I am just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess, never really knew it till now.”

Original article can be found here ➤

An airline worker who stole an otherwise empty passenger plane from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport talked to air traffic controllers as he flew, saying at one point he only wanted to do a couple of "maneuvers" and at another that he was "just a broken guy."

The ground services worker for Horizon Air, whose name has not been released, died. He was identified by authorities as a 29-year-old resident of Pierce County in Washington state.

The man took off from the runway with the Horizon Air passenger plane at 7:32 p.m. local time Friday, officials said.

The 76-seat airliner was captured on video doing large loops and other risky air stunts during its hour-long flight. It crashed an hour after takeoff on a sparsely populated island.

"This might have been a joyride gone terribly wrong," said Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor.

'We don't know how he learned to do that'

Airline officials said they are not sure how the ground services worker learned to operate a plane, much less perform flying stunts.

There are many switches and levers to start a plane, Horizon Air CEO Gary Beck said at a news conference Saturday. "We don’t know how he learned to do that."

"To our knowledge he did not have a pilot's license," Beck said. But he performed some "incredible" maneuvers.

The man was authorized to be in the area of the airfield where the plane was parked for maintenance, officials said.

The FBI is leading an investigation into the incident, including interviewing the man's coworkers and family members, the FBI special agent in charge said at the news conference.

'I don't want to hurt no one'

Audio recordings of the man's exchange with air traffic controllers were posted on Broadcastify and confirmed by federal aviation sources as authentic. In the recordings, air traffic controllers can be heard trying to persuade and help the man to land the plane. They also have experienced pilots radio in to guide him on flying.

"I just kind of want to do a couple maneuvers to see what it can do before I put it down," the man tells air traffic control.

"This is probably like jail time for life, huh? I would hope it is for a guy like me," the man says a few minutes later.

"We're not going to worry or think about that, but could you start a left-hand turn please?" an air traffic controller responds.

"I don't want to hurt no one," the man says a few minutes later.

Air traffic control tries to convince the man to land at the Air Force's nearby McChord Field.

"If you wanted to land, probably the best bet is that runway just ahead to your left, again that's the McChord Field. If you wanted to try, that might be the best way to set up and see if you can land there. Or just like the pilot suggests, another option would be over Pudget Sound into the water," an air traffic controller says.

"Dang, did you talk to McChord yet, because I don't think I'd be happy with you telling me I could land like that, because I could mess some stuff up," the man replies.

"I already talked to them and, just like me, what we want to see is you not get hurt or anybody else get hurt. So like I said, if you want to try to land, that's probably the best place to go," the air traffic controller says.

Minutes later, the man sounds remorseful and says he's a "broken guy" with "a few screws loose."

"I got a lot of people that care about me and it's going to disappoint them that -- to hear that I did this. I would like to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose I guess. Never really knew it until now," the man says.

A pilot who was asked to help guide the man radios to him, "Let's try to land that plane safely and not hurt anyone."

The man responds, "All right. Damn it. I don't know, man, I don't know, I don't want to. I was kind of hoping that was going to be it, you know?"

Military jets in pursuit

After the man took off in the plane, North American Aerospace Defense Command quickly launched two F-15 fighter jets to pursue the craft, a federal senior aviation source told ABC News. The Federal Aviation Administration said it implemented a "groundstop" for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as soon as the plane was taken.

The plane ultimately crashed on Ketron Island, a small, sparsely populated island about 40 miles away from the airport.

"It does not appear that the military jets were involved in the crash," said Brad Tilden, chairman and CEO of Alaska Airlines, parent company of Horizon Air.

Aerial footage of Ketron Island showed a large fiery blaze where the plane crashed. No one on the ground was harmed and no buildings were damaged, officials said.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport flights were delayed or diverted Friday night due to the incident, with normal operations resuming by around 1 a.m. in the morning, officials said.

The FBI tweeted Friday night that the incident did not appear to be terrorism and that it was working with other agencies to "gather a complete picture" of what happened.

"Although response efforts to tonight's aircraft incident and the investigation are still ongoing, information gathered thus far does NOT suggest a terrorist threat or additional, pending criminal activity," the agency said in a statement via Twitter on Friday night. "The FBI continues to work with our state, local, and federal partners to gather a complete picture of what transpired with tonight's unauthorized Horizon aircraft takeoff and crash."

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders praised the response of public agencies.

"The president has been briefed on the incident involving a stolen plane from Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle and is monitoring the situation as information becomes available," Sanders said in a statement Saturday morning. "Federal authorities are assisting with the ongoing investigation which is being led by local authorities. We commend the interagency response effort for their swift action and protection of public safety."

Story and video ➤

The Wall Street Journal 
By Andrew Tangel, Andy Pasztor and Alison Sider
Updated Aug. 11, 2018 4:32 a.m. ET

An Alaska Air Group Inc. employee stole a turboprop airliner from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Friday night before crashing it on a nearby island, authorities and the company said.

The carrier said it believed a ground-service agent employed by Alaska affiliate Horizon Air took the plane and that no passengers or crew were on board other than that person. The plane was taken from a maintenance area at around 8 p.m. PDT and wasn’t scheduled for a passenger flight, according to the company.

Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said he has been told the aircraft was stolen by a 29-year-old Pierce County resident. “There is no indication this was a terrorist act of any kind,” he said in an interview. Authorities didn’t name the employee.

Alaska said late Friday night that the individual wouldn’t be positively identified “until remains are examined.”

Mr. Pastor said the plane crashed on a small, sparsely populated island off the coast in south Puget Sound after being followed by military aircraft for a short time, and caused a fire. Alaska said in a statement that military jets were scrambled from Portland but it doesn’t appear that those jets were involved in the crash. A tweet from the Pierce County Sheriff’s public information officer identified the pursuing aircraft as two F-15 fighter jets.

Mr. Pastor said the crash site had been located and crews were working to control the blaze. Local news in Seattle broadcast aerial video showing a fire still burning on Ketron Island at 10:30 p.m. PDT.

Even before emergency crews reached the wreckage in the remote location, eyewitness reports and unofficial air-traffic control audio depicted a roughly 45-minute drama that played out in skies over the Seattle metropolitan area.

Controllers tried to reassure, persuade and instruct the single pilot, at various times, to avoid populated areas and try to land the aircraft, according to unofficial air-traffic control audio. At one point, the pilot worried about how quickly the turboprop was burning fuel. “I’m not quite ready to bring it down just yet,” the pilot said over the radio. “But holy smokes, I got to stop looking at the fuel, because it’s going down quick.”

At another point, after the pilot pulled the plane out of roll and steep dive, his transmissions to controllers suggested he had expected to lose control during the maneuver. “I was kind of hoping that was going to be it,” the pilot told a controller, according to the unofficial audio.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is working with local, state and federal agencies to understand what happened, according to FBI spokeswoman Ayn S. Dietrich-Williams. She said the information so far didn’t suggest a terrorist threat or additional, pending criminal activity.

The Federal Aviation Administration declined to comment.

Alaska identified the plane as a Horizon Air Q400. The twin-turboprop plane manufactured by Bombardier seats 76 passengers, according to Alaska’s website.

The episode forced controllers to temporarily halt departures and reroute some arriving planes at the busy hub, while travelers used social media to describe the concern and confusion throughout the terminals.

Beefing up security on the tarmac, including enhanced perimeter fencing and various sensors to detect intruders, has been a priority for airports since the terrorist attacks of September 2001.

In recent years, there have been repeated instances of people scaling fences or otherwise accessing planes. But none of those events involved such a large commercial plane taking off without authorization.

In August 2016 at Omaha’s Eppley International Airport, an intruder managed to scale an airport fence, strip down to his boxer shorts, steal a pickup truck and crash it into the nose of a Southwest Airlines aircraft, according to officials and eyewitnesses.

Original article can be found here ➤

A plane crashed Friday evening after a Horizon Air employee conducted an "unauthorized take-off" from Sea-Tac International Airport.

The aircraft crashed on Ketron Island in south Puget Sound shortly after 8:45 p.m. Alaska Airlines said that a Horizon Air Q400 was involved in the incident.

The employee was a 29-year-old Pierce County resident, according to the Pierce County Sheriff's Department. The department believes he acted alone.

No other passengers were onboard the aircraft.

While the plane was still in the air, two F-15 Air National Guard fighter jets took off from Portland, Oregon. In audio recordings, an air traffic control operator can be heard trying to point the man to the airfield at Joint-Base Louis McCord.

"We're just trying to find a place for you to land safely," the operator said.

The plane "was doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills caused crash into Island," Pierce County Sheriff's Department said in a tweet.

Around 8:15 p.m., multiple KING 5 viewers called to report a stolen airplane, saying an apparent pilot or airport worker took off with an aircraft.

A number of viewers called KING 5 after witnessing the plane crash on Ketron Island. A large plume of smoke was visible to residents surrounding Steilacoom, Washington.

Sea-Tac Airport was put on an immediate ground stop once the plane took off. The airport said operations have since returned to normal.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee

The National Transportation Safety Board has been notified of the situation.

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An audio recording between air traffic control and the man who allegedly stole a plane from Sea-Tac Airport shows what went on inside the plane before it crashed on an island in the South Sound.

A Horizon Air Q400 crash-landed on Ketron Island in south Puget Sound on Friday night after a Sea-Tac Airport employee conducted an “unauthorized take-off.” There were no other passengers on the plane.

On the audio clip from Broadcastify, air traffic control and the man are heard talking about him needing help pressurizing the cabin and running low on fuel. The audio also described a man in crisis.

“I got a lot of people that care about me, and it’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this,” the man said. “I would like to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose. Never really knew it until now.”

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