AUDIO emerges of conversation between Seattle hijacker & air traffic controller

AUDIO emerges of conversation between Seattle hijacker & air traffic controller

An air traffic controller called him "Rich", and tried to convince him to land the airplane.

The 29-year-old man, who has not been identified, was suicidal and appeared to have acted alone, the Pierce County Sheriff's Department said on Twitter, adding the employee was probably killed in the crash. "They're not as easy to fly as, say, a Cessna 150, so I don't know how he achieved the experience that he did", Beck said.

The recordings were of radio communication between Russell and air traffic controllers.

The biggest question: How did a ground service agent - whose job includes directing planes for takeoff and gate approaches as well as baggage handling and de-icing - manage to steal a 76-seat Horizon Air turboprop and fly it for almost an hour Friday night with military jets in pursuit before plunging into a wooded island?

The plane wasn't even scheduled to fly at the time of the incident, he said.

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

The 76-seat Horizon Air turboprop plane took off without authorization at 7:32 p.m. local time Friday, with Russell, who was not a pilot, at the controls, officials said.

Video showed the Horizon Air Q400, a turboprop plane that seats 76 people, doing large loops and other unsafe stunts as the sun set on Puget Sound in Washington state.

But Ed Troyer, who also works at the sheriff´s office, described him as "suicidal".

Beck said flying the "complex machine" would be more hard than a private plane. Separate audio, being shared on social media, seems to suggest the man thought he could land the aircraft by himself because he had played "some video games". "I would like to apologize to each and everyone one of them", said Russell.

Mr Southers said the man could have caused mass destruction.

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 really knew it until now", said Richard Russell.

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.

"We're lucky it went down on a very unpopulated island", Eckrote said. Troyer said F-15 aircraft scrambled out of Portland, Oregon, and were in the air "within a few minutes" and the pilots kept "people on the ground safe".

Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden said in a statement early this morning that the airline was "working to find out everything we possibly can about what happened".

Investigators on Saturday will try to retrieve the plane's flight data recorder and its cockpit voice recorder.

"I'm just amazed that one person affected so many other people", said Leddy. The jets were not involved in the crash, it said. The aircraft were trying to direct the stolen twin-engine plane toward the Pacific Ocean when it crashed on Ketron Island, the news release said. He didn't hear the crash, but saw smoke.