Nation & World

Pilot wanted to do aerobatics, apologized for his actions as he spoke with air traffic control

The pilot of the stolen Horizon Airlines turboprop alternately expressed remorse for his actions and a desire to perform aerobatics as he flew over Puget Sound on Friday, pursued by two F-15 fighters.

In the 25 minute-long recording posted to Broadcastify, the pilot can be heard calmly chatting with Air Traffic Control.

“It would be a better option if you tried to land it or even landed on the water,” the controller says.

“Yeah,” answers the pilot, who the controller addresses as Rich. Then he asks for a weather report over the Olympics.

“I hit some turbulence around Rainier but there were no clouds there,” Rich says.

The controller advises the Rich to turn back from the Olympics.

“I just want to keep talking to you and if you keep going to the Olympic mountains we can’t hear you,” the controller says.

The controller tries to talk Rich into landing at McChord Field at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

“Aw man, those guys would rough me up if I tried landing there,” Rich responds. “Oh, they’ve probably got anti-aircraft.”

The controller assures Rich he just wants him to land safely.

Later the controller again tries to get him to land at McChord. Rich dismisses him and instead says he wants to see the mother orca which has been carrying her dead calf for the past two weeks.

“I want to go see that guy,” Rich says.

Rich appears to understand the impact his actions will have on those who know him.

“I got a lot of people that care about me and it’s going to disappoint them to hear about this,” Rich says. “I would like to apologize to each and everyone of them. Just a broken guy. Got a few screws loose. Never knew it until now.”

Rich marvels at the beauty of the Olympics. The controller again gently suggest he turns away from them.

“Hey, pilot guy,” Rich asks. “Can this thing do a black flip thing?” .

Later he says he’s going to land it in a “safe manner” but then asks if the plane can do a barrel roll.

“If that goes good, I’m going to go nose down and call it a night,” Rich says.

Ground control advises him to wait.

A pilot can be heard advising Rich on cockpit instruments and asking him how much fuel he has on board.

“Not enough,” Rich responds.

Again, Rich tells air traffic control he wants to do a barrel roll. He’s advised not to.

Rich asks the controller if he should fly at 5,000 feet to pull off the barrel roll.

Other pilots can be heard on the recording as controllers deal with the havoc being created by the stolen plane.

“Right now, nobody is going,” another controller tells a grounded pilot. “There’s a ground stop. No one is departing as they work out an issue. I’m sorry.”

Rich apparently puts the plane into a barrel roll.

“Alright, Rich. This is captain Bill. Congratulations. You did that. Now let’s land that airplane safely and not hurt anybody on the ground.”

“I don’t want to,” Rich says in an elated tone.

Later, Rich feels that one of his engines is failing. The controller advises him to keep the plane over the water.

The recording does not include the crash.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor
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