Investigations continue into Horizon Air Q400 incident

Investigations are underway into an incident involving an unauthorised take-off of a Horizon Air Bombardier Q400 aircraft from Sea-Tac International Airport on 10 August.

Alaska Airlines said in a statement that at around 8pm a ground services agent employed by Horizon Air made an unauthorised take-off from the airport with a Q400 turboprop (registration N449QX) and crashed around an hour later in a wooded area on Ketron Island in rural Pierce County, WA.

The airlines said the plane was taken from a maintenance position and was not scheduled for passenger flight, and it is believed that no other passengers or crew were onboard.

Military jets were scrambled from Portland but the airlines say it does not appear that the jets were involved in the crash of the Horizon aircraft.

The FBI’s Seattle Field Office has said in a statement that the flight data recorder and components of the cockpit voice recorder from the aircraft have been recovered and are now with the NTSB for processing. Human remains were also located among the wreckage of the aircraft.

The FBI stated: “While the focus of our investigation thus far has centred on Richard Russell, 29, of Sumner, Washington, the FBI is awaiting the results of a review by the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden said facts are still being gathered, adding: “I want to share how incredibly sad all of us at Alaska are about this incident. Our heart is heavy for the family and friends of the person involved.

“With these investigations underway, our focus will remain on supporting the family of the individual involved, the broader Alaska and Horizon family, and our communities and guests.”

In a press conference, Tilden said: “Yesterday’s events will push us to learn what we can from this tragedy so that we can help prevent it from happening again at our airline or any other.”

Alaska Air are working closely with the FBI, NTSB and the FAA to better understand the circumstances of this unauthorised flight, with the FBI as the lead investigator for the incident.

Gary Becky, president and CEO Horizon Air echoed his sadness at the incident, and added: “Our first priority is always the safety and care of our people and guests.

“The Horizon Air Q400, which was taken from Sea-Tac International Airport, was not scheduled to fly at the time of the incident. While we have not yet confirmed the identity of the employee, we have confirmed that all crew and passengers are accounted for. Air Traffic Control was in contact with the individual during the brief flight before it crashed on Ketron Island about an hour after it left Sea-Tac. No ground structures were involved in the crash.”

“We are working closely with the authorities and our own safety teams to thoroughly understand this incident,” he continued.

The Port of Seattle confirmed that it worked with federal agencies to prevent departures shortly after the departure of the unauthorised flight from Sea-Tac Airport on the 16C runway.

During the evening approximately 75 flights were delayed, nine flights diverted to other airports and five flights were cancelled. It is estimated that 19 flights incurred delays over two hours, but none exceeded the three-hour tarmac delay. Normal operations resumed at 8.40pm and operations returned to normal by 1.00am.

 


Written by: Kimberley Young

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