Troubled SeaTac Airport Employee Steals, Crashes Aircraft

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonder and Home.

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7 Responses

  1. Burt Likko says:

    I am not a mental health professional and I am conscious of the cautions actual mental health professionals dispense about medicalizing odd behavior, much less offering an amateur’s armchair diagnosis. Which sentence is the mandatory precedent for ignoring all of the caution and modesty the sentence demands. It feels irresistible to infer other than that this incident was the result of a profound mental health issue, a manic-phase decision to suicide. Nor does it feel that large a leap to presume that there was some significant substance abuse going on immediately before the theft of the plane.

    On another note, the quality of the ATC’s voice and participation in the conversation is spectacular — even, calm, gently bidding to assert control — precisely what you’d hope for. That ATC has nothing but his words to try and bring the situation to an optimal end, and while I’m not sure this ending was optimal (we have at least one death, a fire raging on a forested island with what’s reported to be about 20 year-round inhabitants and a large number of vacation homes, and however much the plane was worth in property loss) I agree with the OP (and everyone else for whom 9/11 is a living memory) that this could have been WAY worse.

    Lastly, I’ll note that while normally I’m very very jealous of pilots who get to fly interceptor aircraft because that looks like an amazingly cool thing to do for a career, getting the order to fire and actually executing it in this case would have been somber, terrible duty indeed.Report

    • The ATC was outstanding good catch pointing that out. The recording will be dissected but I’m content to leave it at a disturbed person who IMO realized at some point what he had done and then the bad decisions lead to the conclusion. Be interesting if we ever find out toxicology or if the stress of situation just broke the man. We may never know.

      I do very much want the timeline of how he got it off the ground. Report

      • J_A in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

        I’m content to leave it at a disturbed person who IMO realized at some point what he had done and then the bad decisions lead to the conclusion.

        It reminded me of McWatt’s (*) death in Catch 22. I found that episode in the book extremely moving because I always felt I would have made the same decision as McWatt. There are things you can’t come back from

        (*) and Kid Sampson’s of course (**)

        (**) or Hungry Joe’s if you saw the movie but didn’t read the book (***)

        (***) BTW, I hate it when characters are robbed of their story lives (sic) to buff up other charactersReport

  2. Oscar Gordon says:

    The criticism that TSA focuses too much on passengers and not enough on employees has been a constant refrain since the day it came into existence.

    I doubt this will actually cause a significant re-ordering of priorities.Report

  3. Jay L Gischer says:

    I have a private pilot’s license, and I have a friend who worked as a mechanic.

    Many mechanics have taxi privileges, which are kind of important, since they need someone to move the plane around from it’s normal place into the shop, or out somewhere where they can do a runup to see if everything is working.

    So, it just has never been that hard for someone to take the plane out to a runup, then call tower, and ask for a VFR slot to take off, assuming the weather is reasonable. I’m sure they know the procedure.

    Ultimately this is about entrusting an airplane to someone. We’ve seen a suicidal pilot or two, though not generally a terrorist suicide. In some ways, yes, it’s scary, but the procedure for preventing it is the same as the procedure for preventing a suicide by someone you just handed over a giant crane, or some other piece of heavy equipment. It’s all dangerous, and you work hard to make sure the person you give the keys to is trustworthy.

    I don’t think the TSA has to focus more on this level. Aircraft owners have every reason to try to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen.Report