Sea-Tac Airport confirmed via Twitter that an airline employee conducted an unauthorized takeoff of a Horizon Air Turbo Prop without passengers on board.
Authorities initially said the man was a mechanic but Alaska Airlines later said he was an employee who helps direct aircraft to gates and de-ice planes. Horizon Air is a division of Alaskan that flies shorter routes in the western US.
Officials remain unclear how he was able to do so, as he did not have a pilot's license. "We're working to confirm who was on board, we believe there were no guests or crew on board other than the person operating the plane". He doesn't know if doing them would be the way to go.
Authorities called the man "Rich", and tried to convince the man to land the plane as he flew over Puget Sound.
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"Got a few screws loose, I guess", Russell is heard saying in the recording.
However, she acknowledged that Port of Seattle police weren't on the airfield when the plane was stolen.
"Oh man. Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there", the man responded, later adding "This is probably jail time for life, huh?"
Many planes in service were designed decades ago and are started up by manipulating levers and switches in a certain sequence, rather than by, say, an ignition key. In conversation with an air-traffic controller, he described himself as "just a broken guy", said he "wasn't really planning on landing" the aircraft, and claimed he didn't want to hurt anyone else.
Per CNN, the man also had some weird and heartbreaking radio correspondence from the cockpit before the 76-seat Horizon Air turboprop went down. Acted alone he is 29-year-old Pierce county residence.
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"You couldn't even tell it was a plane except for some of the bigger sections, like the wing section", Eckrote said.
"We're working to find out everything we possibly can about what happened", Mr Tilden said.
Irwin Downes recorded a cloud of smoke billowing from Ketron Island after the crash.
Horizon Air is owned by Seattle-based Alaska Airlines.
Video from a witness on the ground shows the plane at one point pulling up for a loop, putting the aircraft upside-down and then pulling back up just feet above a body of water.
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