A ground employee from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport stole an empty Horizon Air passenger plane and took off around 8:00pm Friday night, August 10, 2018. Horizon Air’s parent company, Alaska Airlines tweeted saying there was an “unauthorized take-off of a Horizon Air Q400.”
The Pierce County Sheriff tweeted, “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.” It was later determined that the employee was not a mechanic but a ground service employee who took the aircraft from a maintenance facility.
Military jets were scrambled out of Portland, Oregon in response to the incident.
Eventually, the aircraft crashed in the south Puget Sound area. The perpetrator had been talking to air traffic controllers, according to reports and appeared to be in distress as he spoke to them. “I’ve got a lot of people that care about me. It’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this,” the employee said to controllers. “I would like to apologize to each and every one of them,” the man added. “Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess. Never really knew it until now.”
Witnesses reported the plane did a “loop-the-loop” as it was being followed by fighter jets near Chambers Bay, near Tacoma. Among the statements the man made to ATC were:
“I need to be, like, what do you think, 5,000 feet at least to pull this barrel roll off,”
“You think if I can land this successful, Alaska will give me a job as a pilot?”
He said the wanted “the coordinates of that orca, you know, the mama orca with that baby I want to see that guy.”
And that he was comfortable flying the plane because he had “played some video games before.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee released a statement about the incident late Friday: “There are still a lot of unknowns surrounding tonight’s tragic incident of a stolen Horizon Airline plane from Sea-Tac Airport,” Inslee said. “The responding fighter jets flew alongside the aircraft and were ready to do whatever was needed to protect us, but in the end the man flying the stolen plane crashed on Ketron Island. I want to thank the Air National Guard from Washington and Oregon for scrambling jets to keep Washingtonians safe.”
The aircraft crashed, flames were seen and around midnight on Friday, the FBI took over the investigation from local authorities. No one on the ground or any buildings were harmed. Sea-Tac was shut down during the incident.