Two F-15Cs from the 142nd Fighter Wing from the Portland Air National Guard Base in Oregon were scrambled on Friday evening after a "suicidal" airline employee absconded in a Bombardier Q-400 twin-turboprop airliner out of Seattle International Airport before crashing the aircraft on a small island.
North American Aerospace Defense Command deployed the two F-15Cs after the aircraft was spotted by bystanders “doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills" over outlying Seattle neighborhoods, according to local law enforcement.
Military Times reports that NORAD directed the pilots to "fly supersonic to expedite the intercept ... while air traffic control tried to talk the pilot into landing the plane at nearby Joint Base Lewis McChord."
“NORAD fighters were working to redirect the aircraft out over the Pacific Ocean when it crashed on the southern tip of Ketron Island in the southern end of Puget Sound,” NORAD said in a statement. “NORAD fighters did not fire upon the aircraft. The event was subsequently passed to local rescue and law enforcement.”
The pilot, identified by local law enforcement as a 29-year-old ground service agent for Alaska Airlines sister carrier Horizon Air identified only as "Rich," sent several distraught transmissions while piloting the aircraft over open frequencies.
“I’ve got a lot of people that care about me," the pilot says. "It’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this...Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess.”
Pressed to land at Joint Base Lewis McChord, the pilot nervously joked about the fighter jets chasing his aircraft “They probably got anti-aircraft!” When asked about previous flight experience that, he responded that he'd “played some video games before."
The aircraft eventually crashed into a small island off the coast of the Puget Sound, sending a plume of fire and smoke into the air and prompting the Coast Guard to deploy a vessel to the scene of the crash, Petty Officer Ali Flockerzi told the Associated Press on Saturday.
The status of the pilot following the crash is currently unknown.