On Friday night (11 August 2018) (local time at Seattle), a 29-year-old baggage handler conducted an unauthorised takeoff with a Horizon Air Q400 (N449QX) at Sea-Tac (Seattle–Tacoma International Airport, the primary commercial airport serving the Seattle metropolitan area in the U.S. state of Washington). Airport officials announced that the aircraft crashed in south Puget Sound and that normal operations resumed shortly after the incident.
All Horizon Air flights are marketed and sold by Alaska Airlines, the Alaskan airline confirmed the incident and stated that only the person operating the aircraft was on board and no other passengers or crew members.
Witnesses saw the aircraft being chased by two F-15s from the U.S. Air Force, which according to police authorities scrambled from Portland. The F-15s didn’t shoot down the aircraft but kept the Q400 away from inhabited regions.
The baggage handler talked with air traffic control and said that he had a lot of people that care about him and wanted to apologise to them. He announced that he was a broken guy and that he had a few screws loose. Air traffic control talked to him as “Rich” and tried to land him at a nearby military airport. Which Rich refused as he was afraid of anti-air missiles and jail time for life. He even made a joke to Alaska Airlines to give him a job as a pilot if he could bring the aircraft down safely.
The Pierce County Sheriff department tweeted that the 29-year-old male mechanic stole the aircraft and was doing stunts in the air or lack of flying skills caused the aircraft to crash. Later on the night, the police confirmed that the baggage handler was a Pierce County resident and that he allegedly committed suicide. The Seattle FBI has launched an investigation with the assistance of the FAA.
— Cameron Thomsen (@CameronThomsen) August 11, 2018
We’ve confirmed a Horizon Air Q400 that had an unauthorized takeoff from SeaTac around 8pm has gone down near Ketron Island in Pierce County, WA. 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.
— Alaska Airlines (@AlaskaAir) August 11, 2018