On Friday evening, military jets were scrambled to intercept a stolen plane performing air stunts in the sky at Seattle’s Sea-Tac Airport. A ground service employee from the airport commandeered the plane and eventually crashed it about an hour later on a sparely populated island near Seattle. No passengers or crew were on board the plane.
According to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, the pilot was a 29-year-old “suicidal male,” and not report has been given if he survived.
Sheriff Paul A. Pastor said there was no indication that terrorism was an issue, he speculated that it was a joyride gone wrong, saying the man had performed “air stunts.”
“Most terrorists don’t do loops over the water,” he said at a news conference Friday.
Pastor said the man “did something foolish and may well have paid with his life.”
Two F-15 jets were scrambled out of Portland, Oregon and attempted to redirect the aircraft out over the Pacific Ocean when it crashed, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said on Twitter.
“I appreciate the quick reaction and professionalism of our Airmen and the entire NORAD team who were on alert today, as they are every day of the year,” said General Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command.
Audio recordings captured the desperate pilot speaking to air traffic control operators as he flew over Puget Sound.
“I’ve got a lot of people that care about me. It’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. I would like to apologize to each and every one of them,” the man said over the radio system.
An air traffic control operator could be heard trying to convince the man to land the plane.
“We’re trying to find a place for you to land safely,” the operator said.
“Yeah, not quite ready to bring it down just yet,” the man responded.
Sea-Tac Airport said normal operations have since resumed.
“Our hearts are with the families of the individual aboard as well as all of our Alaska Air and Horizon Air employees,” Horizon Air chief operating officer Constance von Muehlen said in a statement.