Au­thor­i­ties probe how air­line em­ployee could steal plane

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL -

IOLYMPIA, Wash­ing­ton (AP): NVESTIGATORS WORKED into the night yes­ter­day as they sought to find out how an air­line em­ployee stole an empty Hori­zon Air tur­bo­prop plane, took off from Sea-Tac In­ter­na­tional Air­port and crashed into a small is­land in the Puget Sound af­ter be­ing chased by mil­i­tary jets that were quickly scram­bled to in­ter­cept the air­craft.

Of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day that the man was a 3.5-year Hori­zon em­ployee and had clear­ance to be among air­craft, but that to their knowl­edge, he wasn’t a li­censed pi­lot.

The 29-year-old man used a ma­chine called a push back trac­tor to first ma­noeu­vre the air­craft so he could board and then take off last Fri­day evening, au­thor­i­ties added. It’s un­clear how he at­tained the skills to do loops in the air­craft be­fore crash­ing about an hour af­ter tak­ing off into a small is­land in the Puget Sound. At a news con­fer­ence in Seat­tle-Ta­coma In­ter­na­tional Air­port, of­fi­cials from Alaska Air­lines and Hori­zon Air said that they are still work­ing closely with au­thor­i­ties as they in­ves­ti­gate what hap­pened.

“Safety is our num­ber one goal,” said Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Air­lines. “Last night’s event is go­ing to push us to learn what we can from this tragedy so that we can en­sure this does not hap­pen again at Alaska Air Group or at any other air­line.”

The bizarre in­ci­dent in­volv­ing a worker who au­thor­i­ties said was sui­ci­dal points to one of the big­gest po­ten­tial per­ils for com­mer­cial air travel: air­line or air­port em­ploy­ees caus­ing may­hem.

“The great­est threat we have to avi­a­tion is the in­sider threat,” Er­roll Southers, a for­mer FBI agent and trans­porta­tion se­cu­rity ex­pert, told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “Here we have an em­ployee who was vet­ted to the level to have ac­cess to the air­craft and had a skill set pro­fi­cient enough to take off with that plane.”

Seat­tle FBI agent in charge Jay Tabb Jr cau­tioned that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would take a lot of time, and de­tails, in­clud­ing the em­ployee’s name, would not be re­leased. Dozens of per­son­nel were out at the crash site, and co-work­ers and fam­ily mem­bers were be­ing in­ter­viewed, he said.

There was no con­nec­tion to ter­ror­ism.

Law-en­force­ment of­fi­cials stand at a stag­ing area last Fri­day near the Seat­tle-Ta­coma In­ter­na­tional Air­port where an Alaska Air­lines plane had been stolen and later crashed.

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