In light of this recent accident of a stolen regional airliner Q400 from Horizon Air that crashed, I want to discuss with you my thoughts on this situation.
- All airport employees are prescreened for mental capacity, drug and alcohol issues, criminal history, and medical status.
- It is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to get into an aircraft like this and do what he did without have a vast knowledge of the airplane and a background in flying.
- All workers keep eyes on each other to instill that we are all pulling together to do our jobs safely.
- There is a lot to be said about the words exchanged with the poor air traffic controllers who were doing their best to help this man.
- There were F15 fighter jets scrambled from a nearby base that were ordered to intercept and guide him away from crowded areas.
- Thankfully, the crash occurred over the desolate area of Ketron Island.
- Mental health issues are a serious thing. People need to know that they can call a crisis line, go to the nearest hospital emergency room, and spend time in a mental health facility that can help to transform lives for the better.
- There will be more safety protocols put in place as a result of this incident that we, as workers, will have to abide by.
Now, the obvious ‘why’ to this situation was that he was despondent and suicidal as shared in his own words in the radio transmissions. He had to have been planning this for weeks if not months or even years. He had to have studied and watched either mechanics, pilots, or flight training. This is a very complicated, large, high performance twin engine aircraft. He was a ground service worker. My guess, now that it was confirmed that he was not a mechanic, was that he may have been a fueler since he said “I filled it up” (hear his words in the link below) but seemed bewildered as to why the fuel burn was so high. When we fly low, we burn more gas. If we don’t make the props run efficiently, we burn more gas. If the NTSB cannot find leads to these aspects, then my next thought is that he spent MANY hours on an at home simulator system that he could select this exact aircraft type. There also must have been instructions on how to start it, taxi it, and take it off the ground. It must have had rudder control pedals and he must have played around with it doing ‘barrel rolls’.
It is shocking for me as a pilot and honestly, also infuriating. We train for years in the military or the civilian flight programs just to have the opportunity to be professionals at the controls of aircraft like these. To have a person who needed psychological help, steal such a valuable asset to the company for his joy ride, displaying as if just anyone could have the skills and knowledge to do this, is appalling. It is bad enough that we continue to voice our safety concerns about the concepts of single pilot operations and drone airliners but are also having to contend with personal ‘flying’ cars with unskilled, inexperienced, poorly trained people in our shared skies.
May all involved find peace, answers, and resolutions in this tragic turn of events.