Flights have been resumed at the previously-closed US SeaTac Airport after an employee took off with a passenger plane without permission.
According to authorities, an airline employee made ‘an unauthorized take-off’ without any passengers on board on Friday night. A little while later, the plane crashed into the sea. It crashed on the south of Ketron Island, near a military facility.
— Cameron Thomsen (@CameronThomsen) August 11, 2018
Before crashing, the unauthorized pilot can be heard worrying about the amount of fuel he had left on live air-traffic control feed, saying, “I’m down to 2,100 (pounds). I started at 30 something. … I don’t know what the burnage is like on takeoff, but it burned quite a bit faster than I expected.” He also could be heard saying that he was going “to go check out the Olympics … and uh, yeah.”
— Jimmy Thomson (@jwsthomson) August 11, 2018
The identity of the pilot is unknown although authorities did say it was a local male aged 29 years old. His condition after the crash is has not been revealed. Soon after the takeoff, the Horizon Air Q400 was pursued by two US fighter jets, according to a statement from Horizon’s partner airline Alaska Airlines.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office said that it was “not a terrorist incident“. Seattle Times said that air traffic control tried hard to get the man to land, but that he did not respond. The newspaper also referred to him as “carefree and wild“. He was apparently a mechanic from an unknown airline, and crashed either because of stunts or a lack of proper training for flying. A witness told the paper, “It was unfathomable, it was something out of a movie. The smoke lingered. You could still hear the F-15s, which were flying low.”
After the crash, flights leaving the SeaTac airport were temporarily put on hold, though they were resumed in a couple of hours. In a statement, the airport said, “An airline employee conducted an unauthorized takeoff without passengers at Sea-Tac; aircraft has crashed in south Puget Sound. Normal operations at Sea-Tac Airport have resumed.”
Horizon Air Chief Operating Officer Constance von Muehlen issues a video statement about the incident. She said that the plane took off at 8pm without any passengers or crew on board. She added, “Our hearts are with the family of the individual onboard as well as all our Alaska Air and Horizon Air employees.”
The Q400 has a capacity of up to 78 seats.
Watch the full statement below: