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Man Crashes Stolen Plane At Seattle Airport


We're learning more about a man who stole a turboprop plane from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport last night. The Horizon Air employee flew for an hour with two military jets pursuing him before crashing on a nearby island in Puget Sound. Plenty of questions remain about this. Kate Walters of member station KUOW has been following developments today.

Hello, Kate.


SINGH: Well, authorities still have not released a lot of information about this incident, but they did offer some new details at a briefing this afternoon about how someone could possibly be able to steal a plane. What did you find out?

WALTERS: Yeah. So one of the things that they talked about today was the fact that this was a - an employee who was credentialed to be in the area that he was in. We got a few more details about what actually happened on the ground when he stole the plane. So, apparently, it was not scheduled to fly. He got a pushback tractor and turned the plane about 180 degrees. We still don't know exactly where he took off from. People - officials said today that they don't believe that he has a pilot's license, and so they're not sure how he was able to do the flying that he did.

SINGH: Now, we should note this employee worked for Horizon Air, and Horizon Air is a sister carrier for Alaska Airlines. What do we know about this employee who actually stole this plane?

WALTERS: We don't know a lot at this point. And officials declined to identify the man today at the press conference. There has been stuff flying around the (unintelligible) media about his identity. What they did say is that he is a three and a half year employee with Horizon Air and that he passed a background check. They do background checks that go back about 10 years. And he didn't talk about any known issues in the man's past. We still have a lot of questions they weren't willing to talk about - any kind of mental health debate or any kind of issue that there might have been with this employee.

SINGH: Because they're still trying to find out more. They're still investigating. But what do we know about how many people might have been injured?

WALTERS: So they say they believe that there was no - there were no passengers on the plane. But they are still investigating at the site, and they said they can't confirm that until they've gone through the wreckage and confirmed whether or not there were passengers. They don't believe they were at this time. Obviously, the man who was flying the plane was on board, and that's believed to be a fatality. They did say they don't think that any ground structures were hit when the plane went down on the island in Puget Sound. And so, at this point, what we're hearing is that it could just be the individual who was responsible for this flight.

SINGH: Well, Kate, the question on everybody's mind is security. This has raised some serious concerns about security. What have you been finding out?

WALTERS: So what they said today is that, you know, an airplane is not like a car. It doesn't have keys. This is not a matter of someone being able to get access to - you know, their way into a plane. What they said to us is that they approach security by securing and credentialing their employees and not the planes, which need to be accessed for maintenance and things like that.

And so they did say that they're going to be looking at what they can learn from this incident but didn't have any sort of direct comments today about any lapses in security or anything - any sort of glaring hole at this point that they want to address. They just said, listen, this is not a typical situation. We do check our employees. They do have credentials to be in certain areas. And that sort of - the security measure's in place at this point.

SINGH: That's KUOW's Kate Walters joining us.

Thanks, Kate.

WALTERS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.