'A few screws loose': Seattle pilot opens up to control tower

Law enforcement vehicles are shown Aug. 10 2018 at the ferry terminal in Steilacoom Wash. near where a Coast Guard spokeswoman said the agency was responding to a report of a smoke plume and possible plane crash

Law enforcement vehicles are shown Aug. 10 2018 at the ferry terminal in Steilacoom Wash. near where a Coast Guard spokeswoman said the agency was responding to a report of a smoke plume and possible plane crash

Federal authorities were searching on Saturday for what drove an airline worker to steal an empty airplane from Seattle's airport and crashing it into a nearby sparsely populated island, sparking a security scare that saw U.S. fighter jets scrambled.

In one snippet, he even seems to consider landing at the runway he is being directed to, before saying "This is probably jail time for life, huh?"

"Just a broke guy, got a few screws loose I guess".

After flying around an unpredictable path, the plane crashed at a nearby island.

USA investigators are piecing together how an airline ground agent stole an empty commercial plane from Seattle's global airport and managed to get it up in the air before doing acrobatic tricks while he was being chased by military jets.

Two military F-15 chased plane but was not involved in the crash, the sheriff's department tweeted.

Sheriff's department officials said they were working to conduct a background investigation on the Pierce County resident.

The freaky incident involving a worker who authorities said was suicidal points to one of the biggest potential perils for commercial air travel: airline or airport employees causing mayhem.

Horizon Air Chief Operating Officer Constance von Muehlen said the company believes the man who stole the plane was a Horizon employee. The employee was a "ground service agent", according to Alaska Airlines (Horizon Air is a subsidiary of Alaska Air Group).

The Pierce County sheriff said that the perpetrator acted alone and "was confirmed a suicidal male".

Later he says he's going to land it in a "safe manner" but then asks if the plane can do a barrel roll.

"I really think they could have handled it better".

Audio clips of broadcast traffic posted by multiple users on Twitter recorded the pilot speaking to air traffic controllers, sometimes seeking advice, sometimes talking about himself.

"It may seem hard for those watching at home to believe, but Beebo was a warm, compassionate man", the statement said.

Airline officials said the ground service agent had a certification to tow aircraft, which results in a higher security clearance than other ground agents. "Never knew it, until now".

Air traffic controllers and pilots could be heard discussing a "ground stop" and dealing with a backlog of aircraft.

Video from a witness on the ground shows the plane at one point doing a loop, putting the aircraft upside-down, then pulling up just feet above a body of water.

"Governor Jay Inslee thanked the Air National Guard from Washington and OR for scrambling jets and said in a statement "there are still a lot of unknowns surrounding tonight's tragic incident". Only the unknown pilot was on the plane.

The married mechanic - who has not been named - crashed on Ketron Island, 30 miles south west of Seattle, at 8pm local time.

Investigators on Saturday will try to retrieve the plane's flight data recorder and its cockpit voice recorder. F-15 fighter jets were sent from Portland to control the situation and, if necessary to intercept it.

Smoke and an orange glow seen on Ketron Island in Washington state.

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