Seattle-Tacoma plane hijacker ‘had full airport credentials’

A 29-year-old man who stole an empty passenger jet from Seattle airport and then crashed it was an airline worker with full credentials, authorities say.He had worked for Horizon Air for more than three years, towing and tidying aircraft and loading bags. The man, not yet named, took off late on Friday, forcing the airport to close while two fighter jets gave chase. After making “incredible manoeuvres”, he crashed the plane in Puget Sound and did not survive. Transcripts of his conversation with air traffic control reveal a man who appears surprised about his feat, who is unclear as to the full operations of the plane, who has no intention to hurt anyone and who ultimately apologises to his loved ones, saying he is “just a broken guy”. Airline and airport officials gave a press briefing on Saturday morning in Seattle. They declined to give the man’s name. Mike Ehl, director of aviation operations at the airport, said the man “had access legitimately” to the plane and that “no security violations were committed”. Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden said the man had been “background checked”. “He worked his shift yesterday and we believe he was in uniform,” he added. Gary Beck, CEO of Horizon Air, said that “to our knowledge, he didn’t have a pilot’s licence” and that he had no idea how the man had gained the skills to fly such a “complex machine”. The man was believed to be the only person on board but that has not been confirmed. The FBI is carrying out the investigation. The 76-seat, twin-engine turboprop Bombardier Q400, belonging to Horizon Air, took off from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport at 19:32 local time (02:32 GMT). Officials say the man used a pushback tractor to first manoeuvre the plane 180 degrees from a maintenance location into the correct position for take-off. After take-off he performed at least one dramatic roll, pulling the aircraft up just metres from the water before gaining altitude again. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) issued a statement saying that two F15 fighter jets were launched from Portland to intercept. A number of videos showed them following the passenger plane, which was flying in an erratic manner. Norad said the F15s were “working to redirect the aircraft out over the Pacific Ocean when it crashed on the southern tip of Ketron island”, about 30 miles (48km) south of the airport. “Norad fighters did not fire upon the aircraft,” it said.