(CNN)An airline employee stole a passenger plane Friday from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and flew it for an hour with military jets chasing him, pulling off aerobatic stunts before crashing in a wooded island 25 miles away, authorities said.
The 29-year-old Horizon Air ground service agent — the only person aboard — died, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said, without further identifying him.
The incident, which the FBI’s Seattle office did not consider terrorism, raises questions about airport security. Investigators headed Saturday to the crash site to recover the plane’s data recorders and the man’s remains as part of a criminal probe, authorities said.
The 76-seat Horizon Air turboprop plane took off without authorization around 8 p.m. local time, with a Horizon Air employee who was not a pilot at the controls, airport officials tweeted.
After “doing stunts in (the) air” — or being flown without proper skills — for about an hour, the plane crashed at Ketron Island, the sheriff’s department said. The man was a ground service agent, a job that includes directing aircraft for takeoff and gate approach, handling baggage and de-icing planes, authorities said.
In light of the incident, airports nationwide will look at whether their security procedures need to change, CNN safety analyst David Soucie said. For one, the man shouldn’t have been able to board the plane alone, he said.
“There is a protocol to not allow anyone singularly to get onboard an aircraft,” Soucie said. “If you’re going to access the aircraft … you make sure that you check with someone else, and that someone else (will confirm) that … you have the right authority to get onto that aircraft.”
This will be a major learning event for the aviation industry, CNN aviation analyst Justin Green said.