F-15s scrambled out of PDX to intercept stolen plane in Washington
SEATAC, Wash. – An Alaska Airlines plane that was stolen by an employee at Sea-Tac airport crashed in Pierce County, Washington on Friday night, local authorities said. ABC News has identified the man as Richard Russell from Pierce County.
Initial reports state that no passengers were on board the plane when it crashed.
Sea-Tac was shut down during the incident. Port of Portland officials said three Seattle-bound planes were diverted to PDX, where they refueled before continuing the flight.
Two F-15 fighter jets took off from Portland at about 8:15 p.m., a Portland airport spokesperson said, to intercept the stolen plane, keep it away from populated areas, and try to get the pilot to land.
PDX is home to the 142nd fighter wing. At all times, two pilots, two crew chiefs and two F-15s are ready to respond.
F-15s fly at incredible speeds, reaching Mach 1.2 (900 mph) or Mach 2.5 (1,650+ mph) depending on their altitude.
SeaTac is approximately 150 flight miles from PDX. At those speeds, the fighter jets reached the area within minutes.
The 142nd fighter squadron is the only squadron of its kind from the Canadian Boarder to Northern California that is equipped to intercept airplanes and other aerial threats.
In a report from February, pilots told KATU they train for a wide variety of incidents.
"When you're talking about protecting Seattle, protecting critical infrastructure, protecting Portland, that's the 142nd Fighter Wing Redhawks,” Col. Duke Pirak told KATU in February.
Initial reports from the Pierce County Sheriff state that the fighter jets chased the plane but were not involved in the crash, adding that the man “was doing stunts in air, or lack of flying skills caused crash into Island.”
This was not an act of terror, officials said.
According to the sheriff's office, the 29-year-old acted alone and was "confirmed a suicidal male" from Pierce County.
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