Well this is bizarre (and scary). It appears that at some point this evening, a Horizon Q400 was absconded with from the Seattle airport, leading to a ground stop and departures hold at SeaTac. Mike was flying out this evening, and his plane was held on the tarmac for about an hour.
There is an ongoing airspace incident in the Seattle area. Departures have been halted for some time, but arrivals are operating. KSEA tower to begin restarting departures momentarily. https://t.co/pm9OYuto9l pic.twitter.com/3X7h26Q0jI
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) August 11, 2018
F-15 fighters were scrambled out of PDX to intercept the plane, though it appears the operator of the aircraft subsequently crashed the aircraft.
While the airport has now re-opened, operations are still a mess, and details are otherwise very light at the moment. Alaska initially confirmed awareness of an “unauthorized take-off” of one of their planes:
We are aware of an incident involving an unauthorized take-off of a Horizon Air Q400. We believe there are no passengers on board. More information as we learn more.
— Alaska Airlines (@AlaskaAir) August 11, 2018
The SeaTac airport authority has confirmed the “unauthorized takeoff” as well, along with the subsequent crash:
An airline employee conducted an unauthorized takeoff without passengers at Sea-Tac; aircraft has crashed in south Puget Sound. Normal operations at Sea-Tac Airport have resumed.
— Sea-Tac Airport (@SeaTacAirport) August 11, 2018
It appears the aircraft was operated by a Horizon employee, who has not yet been identified beyond being a 29 year old male. Horizon Air Chief Operating Officer Constance von Muehlen has since given the following statement:
There will obviously be a massive investigation here, as the circumstances are nearly inconceivable. I think aviation journalist Jon Ostrower summed it up nicely:
Someone in 2018 stole a commercial airliner from a major American airport. https://t.co/PvhFvLBkB0
— Jon Ostrower (@jonostrower) August 11, 2018
Speaking of which, if you aren’t already, I’d recommending following @jonostrower on Twitter as this story develops. He’s based in Seattle, and is one of the most careful reporters around, so will have solid info. The Pierce County Sheriff’s office has responded to the crash scene, and is providing frequent (though possibly too frequent) updates as well. Alaska will share further details and statements through their blog.
If you want to hear some of the ATC audio, you can find some of it below, but…I was listening to this play out live, and want to caution that it’s incredibly sad, and potentially distressing.
VASAviation has complied the full audio here:
This is just so very sad, on many levels. The air traffic controllers are so calm and kind throughout, but there’s a lot to unpack here.
There will be more information in the coming days and months as the incident is investigated. In the meantime, our thoughts are with the family of the aircraft operator, as this must be very difficult for them.
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