Audio of the 29-year-old Seattle-Tacoma airline worker who hijacked an empty Alaska Airlines plane on Friday night before crashing to his death on a sparsely populated Island in puget sound reveal a deeply troubled man at the end of his rope.
No passengers were aboard the 76-seat Horizon Air Q400 turboprop plane stolen by the ground service agent from Pierce County, as he conducted an “unauthorized takeoff” from the airport and proceeded to attempt aerobatic maneuvers while chased by two F-15’s scrambled by the National Guard.
The full 25-minute recording of a conversation between the man, identified as “Rich” on the tape, and air traffic control (ATC) employees can be found here, while Twitter user Jimmy Thomson (@jwsthomson) posted key segments on Twitter shortly after the incident.
“I’ve got a lot of people that care about me. It’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this,” said the man. “I would like to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose I guess. Never really knew it until now.”
The man next told ATC that he was quickly running out of fuel. “I’m down to 2100; I started at like 30-something,” he reported. “I don’t know what the burnage [sic], burnout? is like on takeoff, but yeah, it’s burned quite a bit faster than I expected.”
The ATC then tried to convince him to land at McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, WA, to which the man said “Aww man, those guys would rough me up if I tried landing there… Oh — they’ve probably got anti-aircraft!” The ATC replied “No, they don’t have any of that stuff. We’re just trying to find a place for you to land safely,” to which the man replied: “Yeah, not quite ready to bring it down… This is probably jail time for life, huh? Well I would hope it would be for a guy like me.”
After ATC controllers discussing the situatoin on the open mic suggest the man needs help, the man replied “Nah, I mean, I don’t need that much help; I’ve played some video games before.” The man then asked how to pressurize the cabin because he was feeling “lightheaded.”
Offering a clue as to the man’s motive, he tells the ATC “Ah, minimum wage. We’ll just chalk it up to that. Maybe that will grease the gears a little bit with the higher-ups.”
The man then either became emotional or theatrical, exclaiming “Damnit Andrew, people’s lives are at stake here!” to which the ATC employee responds “Ah Rich, don’t say stuff like that.”
“I don’t want to hurt no one. I just want you to whisper sweet nothings into my ear,” the man responds.
Joking with the ATC employee, the man asks “Hey, do you think if I land this successfully, Alaska will give me a job as a pilot?”
The ATC employee responds “You know, I think they would give you a job doing anything if you could pull this off,” to which the hijacker replied “Yeah right! … Nah, I’m a white guy.”
More select clips of the man:
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