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12 August 2018, 02:58 | Kelvin Horton
No passengers were onboard and normal operations have resumed at the airfield
Federal authorities were searching on Saturday for what drove an airline worker to steal an empty airplane from Seattle's airport and crashing it into a nearby sparsely populated island, sparking a security scare that saw United States fighter jets scrambled.
"There is a runway just off to your right side in about a mile", the controller says, reffering to an airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Although he never claimed he was trying to kill himself while conversing with air traffic controllers, some of his comments about never intending to land the plane and having a few "screws loose" indicate he may have had suicidal intentions and/or was mentally ill.
"The guy didn't know how to fly or intentionally did stunts over Anderson Island, and crashed into Ketron Island", he said, adding that the FBI is now involved in the investigation.
Within minutes of the plane's takeoff, the military scrambled two armed F-15 jets from OR to follow it, according to local and airline authorities and two sources with knowledge of the situation.
While authorities did not release the man's name, they say the man was suicidal, and officials said Friday night the man is likely dead.
He stressed that it was not a terrorism-related incident.
The stolen plane was a twin engine turboprop Q400 airplane belonging to its sister carrier Horizon Air, Alaska Airlines said on Twitter.
Horizon Air COO Constance von Muehlen said she believed the plane had been taken by "a single Horizon Air employee" and that no other passengers or crew were on board.
On 10 August, the 29-year-old mechanic at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport stole a Horizon Air 76-seat passenger airplane.
Ground service agents direct aircraft for takeoff and gate approach and de-ice planes, as well as handle baggage.
"No security violations were committed", said Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden. "I was kind of hoping that was going to be it, you know". They pursued the aircraft before it went down on Ketron Island, between Tacoma and Olympia.
Investigators on Saturday will try to retrieve the plane's flight data recorder and its cockpit voice recorder. "But holy smokes, I got to stop looking at the fuel, because it's going down quick".
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Saturday morning that President Donald Trump is "monitoring the situation". At that speed, the F-15s could have reached the Q400 in less than five minutes after take off from Portland.
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The Pierce County Sheriff's Office said on Twitter that preliminary information suggested that a mechanic had stolen the aircraft. I want to thank the Air National Guard from Washington and OR for scrambling jets to keep Washingtonians safe.
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