Breaking news out of Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEA) as it appears an airline mechanic has stolen an empty Alaskan Horizon (Horizon Air) Q400 turboprop plane (registered N449QX) that was undergoing maintenance.
The Q400 Bombardier Dash 8 is a popular Canadian made plane that can seat 76 passengers in a single aisle, one class configuration and fly a range of 1,100 nmi (2,040 km). It is perfect for landing at smaller airports that can’t take jetliners, commonly found throughout the upper north-west continental USA, Canada and Alaska.
Horizon Air is a sister airline of Alaskan Airlines (They are both owned by the same parent company) and has forty-four Q400’s in service. They cost roughly $32.2 million each.
The plane took off from the airport without authorisation, but the pilot, known to Airport staff as Rich, proceeded to speak with air traffic controllers.
“I’ve got a lot of people that care about me. I’m going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. I would like to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose I guess. Never really knew it, until now,” – Rich, the airline mechanic/pilot whilst flying the stolen Q400.
As the plane launched it became clear that he was inexperienced and was not able to land. As a result, all traffic was halted at the airport, causing a long delay for arriving and departing flights.
“We are aware of an incident involving an unauthorized take-off of a Horizon Air Q400. We believe there are no passengers on board. More information as we learn more.” – Alaska Airlines tweeted
The stolen Q400 was then followed by two scrambled F16’s from the Airforce base near Portland, as he proceeded to do a loop de loop and a barrel roll.
Residences all around the area spoke up on twitter as the plane buzzed by.
“Seatac airspace closed. Horizon Q400 prop hijacked by an unauthorized person not a pilot. Tower tracking flight and in contact. Hijacker does not know how to land the plane. Latest update from tower indicates no interest on his part to land the plane. Stay tuned.”
“Halfway down the runway on Alaska airlines out of Seattle and the pilot slams on the brakes and shares we must go back to the gate. Quite a scary experience. Not entirely sure what’s happening. Someone sneak on board?” – Ben Schaechter wrote on Twitter,
He then attempted another trick and crashed Ketron Island outside Seattle. It is not confirmed at this time if the pilot survived.
“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” – Sea-Tac airport confirmed
The Airport was then reopened and traffic resumed. The local sheriff is investigating and has not yet released a statement.
If you are or know anyone who is contemplating hurting themselves, help can be found at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (which can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.) Other lifelines for other countries can be found here.
Be sure to check back here shortly as more details come available.