SEA-TAC AIRPORT, Wash. (KOMO) - A Horizon Air turboprop was stolen at Sea-Tac Airport then later crashed on Ketron Island near Steilacoom on Friday night.
The incident started about 8 p.m. when a Horizon employee boarded the plane and took off without permission, said Pierce County Sheriff's deputies. No passengers were on the plane.
It flew erratically, at one point turning upside down and diving toward Puget Sound as horrified witnesses watched from the ground. The plane pulled up just above the water.
Air traffic controllers were in contact with the pilot during his flight. At one point, they tried to convince him to land the plane at the McChord runway at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Pilot: "...just a broken guy. A few screws loose. Just now realizing it."
At one point, controllers tried to convince him to land the plane at the McChord runway at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Controller: "There is the runway just off to your right side in about a mile. Do you seen that? That's the McChord field."
Pilot: "Oh man, those guys will rough me up if I tried landing there. I think I might mess something up there, too. I wouldn't want to do that. They probably got anti-aircraft!"
Controller: "Nah, they don't have any of that stuff. We're just trying to find a place for you to land safely."
Pilot: "Yeah, I'm not quite ready to bring it down just yet. Holy smokes! I gotta quick looking at the fuel 'cause it's going down quick."
Controller: "If you could, could you start a left hand turn? And we'll take you down to the southeast please."
Pilot: "This is probably jail time for life, huh? I would hope it is for a guy like me."
Two F-15 jets were scrambled from the 142nd fighter squadron in Portland. As those jets closed on the Horizon turboprop, it nose dived and crashed.
The Pierce County Sheriff's Office said the pilot of the stolen plane is a 29-year-old man, apparently suicidal.
Sea-Tac Airport was shut down during the incident delaying dozens of flights, some for several hours. Operations resumed following the crash.
Alaska Airlines said the incident involved an unauthorized take-off of a Horizon Air Bombardier Q400.
That plane is 107 feet long with a wingspan of 93 feet 3 inches and a cruising altitude of 25,000 feet. It normally contains 76 seats.
The Q400 has a cruising speed of 414 miles per hour and a crew of two pilots and two flight attendants.
The FBI said it is working with state, local and federal partners to figure out what happened. They did say this was not considered a terrorist threat.