A “SUICIDAL” airport worker who stole an empty passenger plane and crashed it into an island described himself as a “broken man” with “a few screws loose” as he was chased by two military fighter jets.
The rogue pilot, 29, said to be a mechanic and who has not yet been named, performed acrobatics before crashing in a fireball on the island off the US coast.
Horrified witnesses on the ground in Seattle said they saw two F-15 fighters attempt to intercept the 76-seater Horizon Air Q400 and “steer” it away from highly-populated areas.
As air traffic control tried to coax the man to land safely, he told them he had learned to fly by playing video games and said he should get “jail time for life”.
The military jets, scrambled from a US Air Force base in Portland, were on the scene within minutes to deal with what was initially feared to be a terrorist hijacking.
While airborne, however, the rogue flier radioed air traffic personnel at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which was immediately closed as the drama unfolded on Friday night.
He told controllers – who referred to him by the names “Rich” and “Richard”– that he was “just a broken guy”.
Attempts to talk him down failed and he radioed back: “I’ve got a lot of people that care about me. It’s going to disappoint them to hear I did this... Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess.”
In another exchange, one controller tried to guide him towards a nearby runway at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, but he refused to steer towards the USAF airfield, replying: “Oh man, those people will rough me up if I try to land there.”