Video showed the passenger aeroplane making an unlikely upside-down aerial loop, then flying low over Puget Sound before crashing into the sparsely populated Ketron Island in the northwestern USA state of Washington. There were no passengers aboard.
The US Coast Guard said the plane was stolen and was seen flying around Puget Sound at one point, NBC News reported. Troyer said F-15 aircraft were in the air "within a few minutes" and the pilots kept "people on the ground safe".
The sheriff said this was not a terrorist incident.
In a video statement, Constance von Muehlen, Horizon Air's chief operating officer, said that the plane departed around 8 p.m. and that no other passengers or crew were aboard.
A plane suddenly took off from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport today morning before the passengers could board and without taking permission to depart, creating a major scare, as US Air Force jets scrambled to intercept the twin turboprop aircraft.
The Q400 is a twin-prop aeroplane with up to 78 seats, depending on configuration.
Audio of the rogue pilot speaking on radio to the SeaTac air traffic control has been shared online, from where it has since gone viral. "That's McChord" (meaning the military airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord).
"I hit some turbulence around Rainier but there were no clouds there", the pilot says.
Authorities initially identified the man as a mechanic but have since then said he was a ground service agent. "I was kind of hoping that was going to be it, you know".
Passengers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which claims to be the ninth busiest U.S. airport took to Twitter to vent their frustration after the incident grounded all flights for up to any hour. "We heard the jet because our windows were down while we were waiting in the ferry line to go to Anderson Island which is adjacent to Ketron Island". An Alaska Air spokesman said he did not have information about how the incident occurred.
Royal King of Mukilteo was photographing a wedding at Lake Steilacoom when he saw the low-flying plane and two fighter jets trailing it.
"Saw a bright, pinpoint area of flame and the smoke".