'Stolen' plane closes Seattle airport before crashing into sea

The air controller tells him there is a runway just off to his right "in about a mile [1.6km]", referring to a military airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"Oh, man, those guys will rough me up if I try and land there", the man says.

At one point, he said: "Hey do you think if I land this successfully Alaska will give me a job as a pilot?"

The man could be heard on audio recordings telling air traffic controllers that he is "just a broken guy".

Witnesses filmed the passenger plane performing loops and being pursued by two F-15 military jets near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington state before it went down.

After "doing stunts in (the) air" - or being flown without proper skills - for about an hour, the plane crashed at Ketron Island, the sheriff's department said.

At a news conference, officials from Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air said that they were working with authorities.

It also said "this was not a terrorist incident".

"An airline employee conducted an unauthorized takeoff without passengers at Sea-Tac; aircraft has crashed in south Puget Sound".

Officials with Alaska Airlines confirmed the plane as a Bombardier Q400 that belongs to Horizon Air. An airline employee had stolen a 78-seat turboprop airliner and conducted a unsafe joyride, complete with loops and other stunts.

Kaelin said Russell "was always great to work with - we got our flights out on time, if not early, most of the time".

Beck said flying the "complex machine" would be more hard than a private plane.

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"I feel like one of my engines has gone out", Rich told the captain as he flew the empty plane. The conversations he had with air traffic control doing his time in the air have also been released.

Southers, the aviation security expert, said the man could have caused mass destruction.

"We just need to get out there and look at the wreckage", Eckrote said at a press briefing at the Steilacoom ferry dock. "Never really knew it, until now", he added.

Fortunately, the only death in the crash was the unnamed joyrider, who still has not yet been named, although air-traffic controllers call him "Rich" during their exchanges.

No injuries were reported on the ground, Pastor said, as the plane crashed and started an intense fire on the wooded, 230-acre island, which has a population of 20.

Shortly before crashing into Ketron Island, Russell said he was hoping to "have this moment of serenity".

"Safety is our No. 1 goal", said Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Airlines.

"I lift a lot of bags".

After the plane approached Ketron Island, Waldron saw a thick column of smoke followed by a loud explosion, he said. The F-15s were scrambled from Portland and were not involved in the crash. "I don't know how he achieved the experience that he did", Beck said.

On Saturday morning, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told media that President Donald Trump was briefed on the incident and is now "monitoring the situation" in Seattle.

In a statement, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee praised the responding fighter pilots that flew alongside the stolen aircraft.

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