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A mechanic stole a plane from Seattle airport and joked with air traffic controllers before crashing into an island.

The married airport employee, 29, “hijacked” the Alaska Airlines plane before performing stunts in the sky as he was tailed by fighter jets today.

Harrowing audio revealed the pilot joking with the controllers who begged him to land the 76-seater plane before it nosedived and burst into a fireball 25 miles away.

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

Astonishing video showed the Horizon Air Q400 doing large loops and other dangerous manoeuvres.

In the chilling recording, he revealed he was a “broken man” and apologised to the air traffic controller.

He said: “I hope this doesn’t ruin your day.”

The mechanic, referred to as “Rich”, said that he wanted to do “a barrel roll, and if that goes good…nose down and call it a night”.

He then said: “I wouldn’t know how to land – I wasn’t really planning on landing it.”

The “suicidal” man, who dreamed of joining the military, then said that he had thrown up and that he felt “dizzy”.

He added: “I’m sorry about this, I hope it doesn’t ruin your day […].

“Man, the sights went by so fast. I was thinking, like, I’m going to have this moment of serenity, take in all the sights.

“There’s a lot of pretty stuff, but they’re pretty in a different context.”

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

He and his wife, who he met in 2010, ran a bakery until it closed in 2015.

In his call to air traffic controllers, the man also described him as having a “few screws lose” but didn’t realise until now.

Sheriff Paul Pastor confirmed there were no passengers on board the plane and the incident was “not terror-related”.

He described it as “a joyride gone terribly wrong”.

Investigator Debra Eckrote said it was “very lucky” the plane avoided nosediving into a populated area.

Eyewitnesses said they saw the aircraft being followed by military planes and videos of the aircraft flying circuits were posted online.

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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.”

The sheriff’s department said they were working to conduct a background investigation on the Pierce County resident.

The aircraft was stolen at 8pm, and Alaska Airlines said it was in a “maintenance position” – meaning it was not scheduled for a passenger flight.

Horizon Air is part of Alaska Air Group and flies shorter routes throughout the west of the United States.

The Q400 is a turboprop aircraft with 76 seats.

Pierce County Sheriff Pastor said the man “did something foolish and may well have paid with his life.”

An air traffic controller called the man “Rich,” and tried to convince the man to land the airplane.

“There is a runway just off to your right side in about a mile,” the controller says, referring to an airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

“Oh man. Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there,” the man responded, later adding “This is probably jail time for life, huh?”

Flights out of Sea-Tac, the largest commercial airport in the Pacific Northwest, were temporarily grounded during the drama.

The U.S. Coast Guard sent a 45-foot vessel to the crash scene after witnesses reported seeing a large plume of smoke in the air.

Video showed fiery flames amidst trees on the island, which is sparsely populated and only accessible by ferry.

Alaska Airlines said no structures on the ground were damaged.

He said he didn’t see the crash but saw smoke.

“It was unfathomable, it was something out of a movie,” he told the newspaper. “The smoke lingered.

“You could still hear the F-15s, which were flying low.”

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James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
August 12th, 2018

 

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