‘This is probably jail time for life, huh?’ - Audio released of air traffic controller's conservation with US man who stole plane

The man who stole an empty Horizon Air turboprop plane from Sea-Tac International Airport was Richard Russell, a US official briefed on the matter told The Associated Press.

The man who stole the plane from Seattle airport discussed landing the plane with air traffic control and also apologised to those who care for him. Source: Associated Press

The official wasn't authorised to discuss the matter and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Authorities today said a 29-year-old man used a machine called a pushback tractor to first maneuver the aircraft so he could board and then take off yesterday evening.

He was presumably killed about an hour later when the aircraft crashed into a small island southwest of Seattle.

The bizarre incident involving a worker authorities said was suicidal points to one of the biggest potential perils for commercial air travel: airline or airport employees causing mayhem.

"The greatest threat we have to aviation is the insider threat," Erroll Southers, a former FBI agent and transportation security expert, told The Associated Press.

"Here we have an employee who was vetted to the level to have access to the aircraft and had a skill set proficient enough to take off with that plane."

Yesterday's crash happened because Mr Russell was "doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills," the Pierce County Sheriff's Department said.

There was no connection to terrorism, Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the sheriff's department, said.

Video showed the Horizon Air Q400 doing large loops and other dangerous maneuvers as the sun set on Puget Sound. There were no passengers aboard.

Authorities initially said the man was a mechanic, but Alaska Airlines later said he was believed to be a ground service agent employed by Horizon. Those employees direct aircraft for takeoff and gate approach and de-ice planes.

Southers, the aviation security expert, said the man could have caused mass destruction.

"If he had the skill set to do loops with a plane like this, he certainly had the capacity to fly it into a building and kill people on the ground.," he said.

The plane was pursued by military aircraft before it crashed on tiny Ketron Island, southwest of Tacoma, Washington. Video showed fiery flames amid trees on the island, which is sparsely populated and only accessible by ferry.

No structures on the ground were damaged, Alaska Airlines said.

Troyer said F-15 aircraft took off out of Portland, Oregon, were in the air "within a few minutes," and the pilots kept "people on the ground safe."

Sheriff's department officials said they were working to conduct a background investigation on Mr Russell.

The aircraft was stolen about 8pm (local time). Alaska Airlines said it was in a "maintenance position" and not scheduled for a passenger flight.

Horizon Air is part of Alaska Air Group and flies shorter routes throughout the US West. The Q400 is a turboprop aircraft with 76 seats.

Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said the man "did something foolish and may well have paid with his life."

The man could be heard on audio recordings telling air traffic controllers that he is "just a broken guy." An air traffic controller called the man "Rich," and tried to convince the man to land the airplane.

"There is a runway just off to your right side in about a mile," the controller says, referring to an airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"Oh man. Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there," the man responded, later adding, "This is probably jail time for life, huh?"

Later the man said: "I've got a lot of people that care about me. It's going to disappoint them to hear that I did this ... Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess."

Flights out of Sea-Tac, the largest commercial airport in the Pacific Northwest, were temporarily grounded during the drama.

The plane crashed in a heavily wooded area of thick underbrush on the island, according to Debra Eckrote, the Western Pacific regional chief for the National Transportation Safety Board. The crash sparked a 2-acre wildfire.

"It is highly fragmented," she said of the plane. "The wings are off, the fuselage is, I think, kind of positioned upside down."

The FBI is looking into the 29-year-old's background and try to determine his motive, she said. Investigators are trying to find how he got on the plane.

"He's ground support so they have access to aircrafts," she said of the man.

Investigators expect they will be able to recover both the cockpit voice recorder and the event data recorder from the plane.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said this morning that President Donald Trump is "monitoring the situation."

Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden said in a statement early this morning that the airline was "working to find out everything we possibly can about what happened."

The airline was coordinating with the Federal Aviation Administration, the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board, he said.

Royal King told The Seattle Times he was photographing a wedding when he saw the low-flying turboprop being chased by two F-15s. He said he didn't see the crash but saw smoke.

"It was unfathomable, it was something out of a movie," he told the newspaper.

Governor Jay Inslee thanked the Air National Guard from Washington and Oregon for scrambling jets and said in a statement "there are still a lot of unknowns surrounding tonight's tragic incident.""

"The responding fighter pilots flew alongside the aircraft and were ready to do whatever was needed to protect us, but in the end the man flying the stolen plane crashed," Governor Inslee said.

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President Trump lashes back at ex-White House staffer's allegations, calling her a 'lowlife'

President Donald Trump has one word to describe former White House staffer and fellow reality-TV star Omarosa Manigault Newman: "Lowlife."

The US President railed against illegal immigration in the US, calling the situation a “disaster”.
Source: Reuters

Manigault Newman claims in an upcoming book, "Unhinged," that Trump used racial slurs on the set of his reality show "The Apprentice." She also says she later concluded that he is a racist and a bigot.

On Saturday (local time), reporters asked Trump during an event at his golf club in New Jersey if he felt betrayed by Manigault Newman. He responded: "Lowlife. She's a lowlife."

Manigault Newman was a contestant on Trump's "The Apprentice" reality show and later served as a senior adviser to the president. In the book, she paints Trump as scattered, self-absorbed, misogynistic and insecure.

The book is set for release Tuesday. The White House has already slammed it as "riddled with lies and false accusations."

The Associated Press purchased a copy of the book ahead of its release. In the book, Manigault Newman claims without evidence that tapes exist of Trump using the N-word repeatedly on the reality show's set. She acknowledges she had never been able to obtain or hear the tapes but said three unnamed sources had described their contents.

She alleges that Trump has exhibited signs of a "mental decline that could not be denied" and says she went as far as printing out a study linking Diet Coke consumption to dementia and strokes and putting it in his briefing stack. She also described him as a man who "loved conflict, chaos and confusion; he loved seeing people argue or fight."

Manigault Newman also alleges that Trump allies tried to buy her silence after she left the White House, offering her $15,000 a month to serve in a "senior position" on his 2020 re-election campaign along with a stringent nondisclosure agreement. She says when she turned down the offer, she received letters from Trump's lawyers telling her to stay quiet.


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Tesla's Elon Musk mocks short investors who bet against his company

Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk used Twitter late Friday to taunt investors who have bet against his company, even though his previous Twitter comments have spurred a government investigation and shareholder lawsuits.

The tweets are aimed at "shorts," or investors who borrowed shares of Tesla and immediately sold them with the hope that Tesla's share price would fall. That would allow the shorts to buy back the stock at a lower price, return the shares to the lender, and pocket the difference.

Shorting a stock can temporarily lower its price, making short investors a frequent target of CEO wrath.

The Twitter comments could potentially affect Musk's legal situation. On Tuesday (local time) he tweeted that he had secured funding to buy all Tesla shares and take the company private.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Musk's disclosure of the potential deal, according to reports earlier this week.

Musk's attitude toward short sellers could be relevant, securities law experts have said. Musk's tweet about taking Tesla private sent the stock soaring 11 percent Tuesday and cost short sellers roughly $1 billion, according to some estimates.

If his motive for the tweet "was frustration with short sellers, then that could be a case of market manipulation," John Coffee Jr., a Columbia University law professor and corporate-governance expert, said earlier this week.

Late Friday Musk mocked short investors in a series of tweets, suggesting his antipathy toward them hasn't dimmed.
"Short shorts coming soon to Tesla merch," Musk tweeted. "What are your fav short shorts?"

James Cox, a professor of securities law at Duke University, downplayed the significance of the Friday tweets, noting that Musk's antipathy toward short sellers is well-known.

"It's hard for me to think that these blasts are going to get him in trouble," Cox said.

On Friday, two lawsuits were filed accusing Musk of seeking to harm short sellers by artificially running up the price of the company's shares through his Tuesday tweets.

One tweet on Tuesday said that funding to take Tesla private was "secure." If there is evidence that the financing wasn't fully locked down, Musk's claim would expose him to allegations of fraud, Coffee said.

speaks onstage at Elon Musk Answers Your Questions! during SXSW at ACL Live on March 11, 2018 in Austin, Texas.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Source: Associated Press


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