Oregon F-15s Scramble To Seattle To Intercept Possibly Stolen Q400 Airliner (Updated)

The Eagles intercepted the aircraft south of Seattle and it may have since crashed or have been shot down.

byTyler Rogoway|
U.S. Homeland photo


F-15s scrambled to intercept a potentially stolen or hijacked aircraft flying in airspace south of Seattle. I have been updating my twitter as I was away from my office, but below is what you need to know thus far.

Details remain sketchy and are likely to change to some degree, but at around 8:15pm this evening, F-15Cs from the 142nd Fighter Wing at Portland International Airport were sent on an over-land emergency scramble to intercept a low-flying target south of Seattle. 

This is an actual picture (and the one at the top of this post) of Rock 41 scrambling out of PDX this evening. The MA tail code is because the unit has swapped some of its jets with the Massachusetts Air National Guard for an overseas deployment. Our good friend and wonderful photographer Russell Hill provided these pictures. Make sure to check out all his work here., Russell Hill

Based on our sources, the aircraft was a possibly stolen or hijacked Q400 twin-turboprop airliner out of Seattle International Airport. Whatever happened leading up to its flight resulted in a total ground-stop at the airport. 

The F-15s intercepted the Q400 and were cleared to launch flares during that intercept. Apparently, the aircraft has since crashed or was shot down, with the F-15s circling overhead the crash site and waiting for first responders. 

BIGFOOT, the callsign for the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS) that controls these types of intercepts instructed the F-15s to land at nearby McChord AFB once they were no longer to stay on station. 

UPDATE: 9:44pm PST—

Apparently, it was an employee at the airport and nobody else was onboard. This is very good news.

Here is audio from the person named Rich who stole the plane:

Here is more video:

Here is the aircraft's ID:

Update: 9:50pm PST—

Local officials state that the aircraft crashed due to the pilot's direct actions and was not shot down. 

More on the suspect:

We will continue to update this post with new information as it comes available.

You can see exactly what it is like to get intercepted by Oregon Air National Guard F-15s in this past video of ours:

Update: 10:14pm PST—

​More important audio:​​​

A KC-135 is now up over the scene:

A Piece County Sheriff Cessna is also circling the scene: 

A bit of commentary: I am very surprised this aircraft was not shot down earlier. It was at low altitude and a Q400 could do a lot of damage, especially considering so many outside events are going in the region. He was communicating and the Eagles had him in their sights, but once he flew over water I am a little surprised that wasn't it. We don't know all the details, far from it, but it seems like they did everything and more to try to get him to land safely. It will be interesting to find out how this all went down exactly.  

For those who think it would be impossible for someone with no formal flight training to steal and eventually land a complex aircraft, give this past feature of mine a read.

Some info to our friends @Aircraftspots:

Update: 10:55pm PST—

Check out video of the guy doing aerobatics very close to the water in the stolen Q400:

Here is the debris and fuel left burning on the water's surface:

Update: 11:18pm PST—

The crash site (white arrow) and the surrounding area. You can see just how close McChord AFB was.

Google Earth

From @Civmilair:

We have been told the aircraft was sitting on a hardstand at SEATAC where it wouldn't need a pushback to taxi.

UPDATE: 11:38pm PST—

The emergency response continues. There is no bridge access the island. Also, here is a statement from Washington's governor:

Update: 11:57pm PST—

A new angle on the split-s maneuver that some are calling a loop:

This audio may have been right before the end:

Update: 12:10am PST—

A message from Horizon's Chief Operations Officer:

Video thumbnail

Alaska says the person who stole the Q400 was a ground service agent, not a mechanic. 

Update: 12:30pm PST—

Here are some personal thoughts I posted on Twitter after tonight's events:

Update 10:47am PST—

Here is NORAD's statement on the event:

I have received multiple inquiries on the F-15's potentially going supersonic on their way up to the Seattle-Tacoma area. They can get up there in a handful of minutes and have broken the sound barrier doing so before. It looks like they did it again in this case:

A number of agencies are on the scene of the crash now, with the FBI Seattle office leading the criminal investigation. There is also a temporary flight restriction up around the crash site.

Update: 2:04pm PST—

Apparently, this is a video made by Richard Russell, the perpetrator of the incident. It will certainly be examined in the investigation into the incident. It is somewhat eerie for a number of reasons as you can see for yourself:

Video thumbnail

In a blog he made for the same class that the video was for from 2017, his 'about' page has some details about his life. Apparently, he was a bakery owner at one time. You can read it here.

This is a sketch he made while figuring out a logo project for the same class:

Richard Russell's Wordpress site

We held back from posting this information until we could get corroboration from another source. Now the Seattle Times has reported his name and noted that he was well liked by his coworkers. You can read their article here. 

This is the final update to our marathon coverage of this event. 

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com