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Airport Ground Worker Steals and Flies Airplane; New York Representative Chris Collins Suspends Re-election Campaign after Arrest; Airline and FBI Officials hold Press Conference on Stolen Plane; Demonstrations and Counter Protests Planned in Virginia and Washington D.C. One Year after Charlottesville. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired August 11, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:05] RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and thank you for joining me. I'm Ryan Nobles in today for Fredricka Whitfield.
And we are covering the breaking news out of Seattle. And empty commercial airplane stolen by an airline employee, that man taking the plan on an hour long joyride near Seattle, even attempting to do some stunts while armed military fighter jets followed behind him. Then the 29-years-old ground services agent we don't know the identity of yet, crashed the plane into the ground killing himself. We have the chilling audio of the man talking to air traffic controllers over the course of that hour. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got a lot of people that care about me, and it's going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. 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.
You think if I land this successfully, Alaska will give me a job as a pilot?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they'll give you a job doing anything if you can pull this off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you wanted to land, probably the best bet is that runway just ahead and to your left. That's the McChord field. If you wanted to try, that might be the best way to set up and see if you can land there. Or just like the pilot suggested, another option would be over Puget Sound into the water.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dang, you talk to McChord yet? Because I don't think I'd be happy with you telling me I could land like that, because I could mess some stuff up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I already talked to them, and just like me, what we want to see is you not get hurt or anyone else get hurt. So like I said, if you want to land, that's probably the best place to go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want the coordinates of that orca with the -- the mama orca with the baby. I want to go see that guy. Hey, pilot guy, can this thing do a backflip, you think? I'm going to try to do a barrel roll, and if that goes good, I'll go nose down and call it a night.
Man, have you been to the Olympics? These guys are gorgeous. Holy smokes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's try to land that airplane safely and not hurt anybody on the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Damn it, I don't know, man. I don't know. I don't want to. I was kind of hoping that was going to be it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: Any moment now, we're expecting to hear from Alaska Airlines executives. We'll bring you that news conference live as it happens. But now let's talk to CNN's aviation and government regulation correspondent Rene Marsh. She joins us. She's been covering this story all night into the morning. Rene, what's the latest? What are you hearing from investigators?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: The FBI is saying that right now, their priority is trying to get the full picture. So they are doing everything that they can to gather all the data points to start forming that picture. Everything from securing that video from the airport, getting a better understanding of this man's background, which includes his social media, any blog postings, any YouTube postings that he may have. Any other Internet presence that this man may have had, they're piecing that all together, coupled with talking to employee's family and friends and listening to that audio, which essentially is the last time we would hear this man speaking and, also, hear his tone.
And when you listen to that, it is kind of stunning because we know how this story ended. And sheriff's department did say he was suicidal, but when you listen to the way he's talking, he doesn't sound like someone who's extremely anxious. So they're going to be analyzing all of these things here, and that's what the FBI is actively doing.
In the meantime, the NTSB has a lot of work on their hands too. They're trying to get to this island where the plane went down. And I will tell you based on the presser that they just gave us, the update to press just maybe about an hour or so ago, it's challenging in the sense that there's a lot of brush there. So they've got to make their way through all of that, and you're looking at the live, well, not live pictures, but pictures of that island there. They have to make their way through all of that, and then sift through the wreckage and get the critical black boxes, and that will be helpful to the FBI as well.
So everyone is doing their work, and then when we hear from the airlines, they may be able to tell us, do they know anything more about this man's mannerisms, anything that may have triggered what we saw unfold here last night. NOBLES: He's certainly irresponsible, certainly the situation was
dicey, but the fact he put the plane down in the heavily wooded area at least seems to indicate that he didn't want to hurt anybody else.
[14:05:00] MARSH: Right. And the NTSB is a bit hesitant to say, did it run out of fuel? We don't know, because we know that this plane was not scheduled to fly passengers, so we don't know what the fuel situation was, we don't know if he did it intentionally. All of those things of course would have show up on the flight recorders because it will say what was going on with the plane at that very moment.
But that is the good thing, if you are looking for any good thing here is that no one else was injured. You mentioned the plane went down in the area that's not very populated. Those military jets had to make the assessment of what to do as they were tracking that plane. Clearly, they saw that others were not in danger.
NOBLES: Rene Marsh, thank you for reporting. Stick by us, though, because when we have the press conference, we want your perspective on that as well.
And I want to go now to Scott Adams. He's the battalion chief with the West Pierce Fire and Rescue. Scott, tell me, when did you first learn that something had happened?
SCOTT ADAMS, BATTALION CHIEF, WEST PIERCE FIRE AND RESCUE: We got dispatched right at about 8:54, 9:00 last night. So it was very soon after the incident had occurred, very early.
NOBLES: I can't imagine this is a scenario that you can prepare for, right? It seems so odd and very specific. How do you prepare yourself to deal with something like this as it's happening?
ADAMS: Well, we do a lot joint training with a lot of different agencies. But believe it or not, first responders, obviously their first concern is for everyone's safety, but once they knew the plane was on the ground and they were dealing with a little bit more of a brush fire type of incident, as you know, it's been very dry over in the Washington and Seattle area. So they're dealing with these types of fires quite a bit lately.
NOBLES: So how difficult was it to get to the scene? We know this was a pretty heavily wooded area. It happened on an island. How difficult was it for your crews to get over there?
ADAMS: It was very difficult. Initially once we got up, they had to make their way to the south end of the island. Reports of very narrow roads and really no direct access to where the plane had gone down. So there's a lot of on-foot, a lot of carrying of tools and hoses, and a lot of coordinated efforts to try to get water. The water, the hydrants weren't reliable. They did find a large cistern with several thousand gallons of water that helped a lot. The water can be used to help out, and that helped out a lot. Crews are still out there putting out hotspots now and trying to keep that area safe for investigators. NOBLES: That's an important point you made about the potential for a
wildfire. Was that one of your first concerns? I assume your first concern was perhaps the status of the pilot, but how vital was it for you to get to that scene quickly to prevent the fire from spreading?
ADAMS: Yes, because that's not one of our primary areas that we respond to, a lot of agencies were turning to each other trying to figure out what might we be dealing with. We had really amped up pretty well for what an area that was not heavily populated. We know that access was going to be difficult. And then based on the weather conditions we had, we knew it was going to be very, very dry. And hoping the weather would cooperate so that fire didn't move superfast. So we were lucky to keep it contained, approximately 300 by 150 feet and have some access. So that did help.
NOBLES: Yes. So were you made aware of the situation while the plane was still in the air? And if you were, were you preparing for an even worse case scenario where it could have gone down into a highly populated area?
ADAMS: At the time when we were dispatched, they had reported it. I think it went out as a water rescue, and then it was quickly upgraded to a plane crash on Ketron Island. And that's how we official come to the information. So really we weren't following it prior to really getting dispatched. So for us crews and command were really made known that there was a plane crash, and to prepare for some type of wildfire or fire type incident.
NOBLES: OK, Scott Adams who is the battalion chief of the West Pierce Fire and Rescue, his crew among the first on the scene as this plane went down just outside of Seattle. Scott, thank you so much for joining us, we appreciate it.
And a shake-up on Capitol Hill. Breaking new, Congressman Chris Collins announcing that he is suspending his reelection. Why step away at such a critical time in his opponent?
[14:10:06] We'll ask his opponent right after the break.
NOBLES: Breaking news on indicted Congressman Chris Collins. The New York Republican has announced that he will suspend his campaign for re-election. This just days after he was charged with insider trading and facing 150 years in prison if convicted.
We're now joined by Congressman Collins' opponent in the November election. That's the Democrat Nate McMurray from Grand Island. Nate, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it. First tell me your reaction when you heard about your opponent's decision not to seek reelection.
NATE MCMURRAY, (D) NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I think good news for New York state. It's good news for America. I think the era he represents needs to come to an end. I think it's going to be a very trying time for his family and him. I understand that. [14:15:00] At the same time, I am relieved that we're not going to
have a man who may be in jail for 150 years in office running in a campaign to represent western New York and central New York.
NOBLES: I don't have to tell you the odds that you were facing initially with congressman Collins given the make-up of that district, pretty reliably Republican, a district the president won by more than 20 points the last time around. Now Congressman Collins is out of the picture but the politics of the district hasn't changed all that much. How are you reaching out to Republicans at this point trying to win them over, because that's still going to be necessary for you to win, isn't it?
MCMURRAY: It certainly is. And I think Mr. Collins represents a broken system, a system that celebrated this man a week ago, a system that told western New York, this is the man that should be your representative, to trust this man. And I think a lot of people in America feel today that our political system is in crisis and needs to be changes, and that this left/right divide is maybe not the best thing for us and we need to rethink things, and that party bosses shouldn't be making or calling the shots. People who are of this region, who represent the values of this region like hard work and honesty and decency, should be the ones to help lead the region.
NOBLES: You mention party bosses, and that opens the door to ask about Nancy Pelosi, the current Democratic leader. She'd like to be speaker of the House again. She's calling on Congressman Collins to resign his position. First, tell me, do you agree with her? Do you think that Congressman Collins should step down immediately?
MCMURRAY: He should. He should step down immediately. I think, -- I'm not sure what he's trying to do, whether extend his pension or something else, but this has to end. Suspending his campaign is one thing, but he needs to resign. I called on him to do the right thing, I hope he will do the right thing.
As for Nancy Pelosi, she is the leader currently. I think we need new voices and I think we need new people to come forward to help lead this party. I hope to be part of that movement, and I hope to be part of the overall rejuvenation of the leadership in our country.
NOBLES: So I guess what you're telling me then is you won't support her if Democrats win the majority and she runs for speaker. Is that what you're saying?
MCMURRAY: I will not.
NOBLES: So tell me, and I do have to warn you that we might be going to a press conference and we may have to cut the interview short, but from your perspective representing western New York and this district in particular, what is it that voters are asking you about? What is it, what message do they want you to take to Washington if you're elected?
MCMURRAY: We keep hearing about a booming economy, but it's booming for guys like Chris Collins who get the secret deals, the secret handshakes, the backroom deals. There's a lot of people struggling. So my message from the get-go has been we need representation for the middle class. We need to grow the middle class. We need to strengthen the middle class, because this economy may be working for some people, but it's not working for the people who are working two or three jobs and still living in debt and struggling. And that's what I want to change and that's the people I want to represent here in western New York and central New York.
NOBLES: Now, what Republicans are going to have to do some legal maneuvering, essentially, to get Congressman Collins off the ballot in November. What's your opinion about that? Do you think that they should have that ability if he's -- one of the theories he may be appointed to a town clerkship in order to get him off the ballot? Do you think that's appropriate, or should Republicans just be forced to ride with him through the election because he is the candidate they nominated?
MCMURRAY: It's troubling, right? They want to hit the reset button and pretend none of this happen. They didn't want to pretend they were attacking me a week ago for saying, how dare you challenge Mr. Collins? It's shameful. They're going to reach deep into this bag of tricks to try to come up with some strange solution. It's not going to fix anything. It's going to make -- it's going to just be more of the same dirty political machine we've seen over and over that's taken advantage of people here in western New York.
NOBLES: All right, Nate McMurray, unfortunately we're going to have to go because we have to go to this press conference in Seattle. We do appreciate you joining us.
And now lets' go, this is executives from Alaska Airlines discussing yesterday's plane crash just outside of Seattle. Let's listen in right here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: CEO and president Gary Beck will make a statement. We've already gone over the spelling of your last names. Following the statements, we'll hear from representatives from the FBI and the Port of Seattle. And afterwards, we'll open it up for about 15 to 20 minutes of Q and A for those of you in the room and those of you on the call. Please raise your hand if you have a question and I will call on you. Be sure to speak loudly so people listening in on the call can hear. I suspect there will be a lot of questions, so we'd like to limit everybody to one each, please. The FBI is leading this investigation, so there's a lot of information that we simply cannot share today.
Now, let me introduce Alaska Airlines CEO and Chairman Brad Tilden and Horizon Air CEO and President Gary Beck.
[14:20:05] Brad serves as chairman and CEO of Alaska Air Group, the parent company of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air. He's a 27-year veteran of Alaska Airlines.
Gary is president and CEO of Horizon Air. He joined the airline in January of this year and previously served as vice president of operations at Alaska Airlines for about six years. With that, I'll turn it over to Brad.
BRAD TILDEN, CEO AND CHAIRMAN, ALASKA AIRLINES: Thank you, Bobbie, and good morning everyone. All of us at Alaska and Horizon are deeply saddened by last night's unauthorized flight with the Horizon Q-400 aircraft that resulted in the loss of life for the individual involved. All 23,000 of us want to express our sincere sympathy to his family, his loved ones, and his coworkers. We're working closely with the authorities to help answer the many open questions that they have, and this cooperation started last night.
Our top priority is the safety of our guests and our employees. Simply put, there is nothing more important to us. We're working closely with the FBI, the NTSB, and the FAA to better understand the circumstances behind this incident. We've been told, as Bobbie said, that the FBI is the lead agency investigating this. Safety is our number one goal. There's nothing more important to us. Last night's event will push us to ensure this does not happen again at Alaska Air Group or any other airline.
Before I turn this over to Gary, I want to acknowledge and express my deep gratitude to the FAA air traffic controllers, to the Washington and Oregon Air National Guards, and to the first responders from Pierce County. They had a very strong and professional response to this incident.
So with us here today, we have, as Bobbie said, we have Horizon Air CEO Gary Beck. We also have Jay Tabb who is leading the investigation for the FBI, and we have Mike Ehl who is the director of operations for SeaTac Airport. These folks are going to speak for a couple of minutes and then will be available to answer your questions.
GARY BECK, CEO, HORIZON AIR: Thanks, Brad. At 7:32 p.m. local time, a Horizon Air ground service agent departed in a Horizon Air Q-400 without clearance from SeaTac International Airport. The plane taken from a maintenance position and was not scheduled for passenger flight. The aircraft crashed about an hour later in a wooded area on Ketron Island in rural Pierce County. No ground structures were involved at the crash site.
Military jets were scrambled from Portland, but it does not appear the jets were involved in the crash of the Horizon aircraft. And I really want to emphasize that we appreciate the military's professionalism. We're working closely with the authorities and our own safety teams to thoroughly understand this incident. And now I'll turn it over to Mike.
MIKE EHL, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, SEATTLE-TACOMA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: Thank you, Mr. Beck and good morning. The Port of Seattle and SeaTac International Airport want to ensure that you know that we're working fully with our partners at the NTSB, the FAA, the TSA, and certainly our strong partners at Horizon and Alaska Air. Immediately upon learning of the incident, we worked with our FAA partners to institute a ground stop that prevented any departures from leaving SeaTac until the situation was stabilized.
To clear the airspace, arrivals continued and ended at 20:40, or 8:40 p.m. local time last night when normal operations resumed. During the time of the incident, approximately 75 flights were delayed, nine flights were diverted to other airports. Five flights were cancelled. We estimate that approximately 19 flights incurred delays over two hours, and we apologize to our passengers and patrons of SeaTac airport. None exceeded the three-hour tarmac rule as instituted by federal regulations. Operations were fully back to normal by 1:00 a.m. this morning, and moving forward, we'll certainly continue to work very closely with our stakeholders as well as law enforcement.
And I'd now like to introduce Mr. Tabb from the FBI.
[14:25:04] JAY TABB, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Mike, thank you. Good morning. My name is Jay Tabb. I'm the special agent in charge for the FBI in the state of Washington. First, an expression of condolences and empathy for Alaska and Horizon Airlines in this loss. And I also want to talk a little bit to the King County and Pierce County residents who I'm sure had a scare last night. I want everybody to know we are diligently investigating this matter. We will get to the bottom of it. We're doing so with a long list of partners right now including Pierce County police department, Pierce County fire department, the NTSB, of course, and some fire rescue folks from the Joint Base Lewis McChord who are assisting us out there right now.
I have dozens of personnel out at the crash site right now. I have 30 to 40 folks involved overnight out interviewing coworkers and family members. And I just want everybody to understand, this is going to take a little bit of time. So please be patient with the FBI. We're not prepared today to discuss a lot of details regarding this incident, just because it is so nascent. So with that, we're going to go ahead and turn it over to Q and A.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll now take some questions. Operator, could you please open the call. And I want to apologize to everybody who is calling in. I know we're having a few technical difficulties, so speakers may have to repeat yourself. We apologize for that. Let's take our first question in the room.
TABB: It's way too early to comment on that, I'm sorry.
TABB: I think at this time, we believe he was the only one in the aircraft but of course we haven't confirmed that at the crash site, if that's your question. And in terms of the access, that will be best answered by somebody else.
TILDEN: Well, we do realize that there is some information flowing out there. We are not confirming the identity of the individual involved at this time. It was a three-and-a-half year employee of Horizon Air. It was a ground service agent for Horizon Air. To answer the question that you asked, he was background checked.
There was a couple of different background checks we run on our employees. He had a seat of badge with the Port of Seattle. So that's another -- he worked his shift yesterday. We believe he was in uniform. His job is to be around airplanes. He's certified, so he's meant to be. Airports have a non-secure side and a secure side. He's meant to be on the secure side. That's part of the fulfillment of his job responsibilities.
TILDEN: This airplane was a cargo one. It's a spot on the north part of the airport. The airplane was not going to be used further last night, and he did go up to there without sort of a purpose other than this, what he did do.
TILDEN: We don't know.
TILDEN: We don't have that information.
TILDEN: OK, yes. Yes, I will.
TILDEN: No. The security now, this is something Mike might speak to, but the security regime at SeaTac airport, there were certain spaces and he was authorized to be in the area he was.
Mike, do you want to talk about the way you're set up?
EHL: Certainly. The question I believe is whether there was an additional layer of security that was required. And no, the individual that Mr. Tilden spoke of was fully credentialled. He had access to that area legitimately. It is inside the security fence, so no security violations were committed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to take a couple of questions from the call operator. We'll have those on the phone to e-mail those in. Yes?
[14:30:03] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said this guy was fully certified and belonging there, mentioned constantly making changes. What, if anything, could to do to prevent something like from this from happening again?
TILDEN: It's very, very early. This incident happened last night, so we are, right now we're dealing with the response to the incident. We're looking at this. It's natural to ask yourself what procedures are there, and what I told you is the case. He's credentialled. Part of his job responsibility was around airplanes, working around airplanes.
But in terms of improvements that we might make as a company and as an industry to make this honestly this very safe industry even safer in the future, it's too early to say. We will, Alaska, we pride ourselves in being a leader in safety, and we will be a leader on this issue. So we will be looking at it. But we're less than 24 hours after the incident. It's far too early to say what additional procedures we might implement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, what sort of mental health resources are available to your employees, and can you tell us whether this employee used any?
BECK: I can take that, thank you. We have employee assistance program that's available to all of our employees to deal with mental health issues that might arise. It's available 24/7, 365 days a year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he make use of this?
BECK: I don't know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to check, he was an employee of Horizon or a contractor? And what union did he belong to?
TILDEN: He was a ground service agent employed by Horizon Air since February of 2015. And that group is not represented.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When did SeaTac recognize an unauthorized plane had been accessed? I guess, is there sort of a communication involved that would alert FAA that a plane had been accessed?
TILDEN: Again, these are good questions but it's very, very early, and I think it's not fruitful to speculate. Obviously, the tower knew as he was approaching, the tower did know this was an unauthorized departure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just talking how that process works, the plane is accessed. There is a communication or some sort of -- the tower is alerted.
TILDEN: Normally, there are ramp clearances, there are ground clearances, there are takeoff clearances. Those did not happen in this situation. This was an unauthorized flight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what are the airlines, what are the airport's responsibilities with regard to securing flight ready airplanes? Do you have to lock the wheels, you have secure the doors? What's in place currently?
TILDEN: We're going to be looking at this, but this is -- we've got a fleet of airplanes, airplanes that are overnight. We're accessing aircraft routinely overnight to do log books, to clear the airplanes, to do maintenance work on the airplanes. So the system that works is we secure the employees that ae there. But the employees are there, credentialled employees are there to work on the airplanes. That's their job, to be around these airplanes and to work on them. That's the -- we'll look at whether improvements can be made going forward, but that is the set-up we have today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You secure the employees more than secure the airplanes.
TILDEN: That's correct. These airplanes, the doors, this is aviation in America. The doors of the airplanes are not keyed like a car. There's not an ignition key like there would be a car. The set-up in aviation in America is we secure the airfield and then we have -- the mindset is we have employees that are credentialed and authorized to be there to operate and do the various jobs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to take a question from Dominic (ph) Gates. At the cargo one parking spot, would you have had to back the plane out? This is just a reminder to our speakers, if you wouldn't remind repeating the question for the people on the phone, thank you.
EHL: Just to repeat the question, I believe it was whether the aircraft would have to be backed out. And the aircraft was part nose east, tail west, if you will, on the cargo one line. The aircraft was assigned. The individual did use a pushback tractor to rotate the aircraft 180 degrees so he could then taxi the aircraft out on to the active surfaces.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you explain how that works? What is the pushback tractor? We have been in the tractor, pushed the plane, and then got into the plane?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much time does that normally take?
EHL: Well, it would depend upon the procedures and what the air traffic situation was at the time. The dependencies that the flight crew and legitimate scenario would require in terms of coordination with the ground crew and air traffic control to prepare for that departure.
[14:35:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw him do some incredible maneuvers in the air. If this person apparently didn't have pilot experience, how could he have done those maneuvers. Can you speak to what you saw in the air?
BECK: Sure. And you're right, there were some maneuvers that were done that were incredible maneuvers with the aircraft. To our knowledge, he didn't have a pilot's license. So to be honest with you, I mean, commercial aircrafts are complex machines. They're not as easy to fly as, say, a Cessna 150. So I don't know how he achieved the experience that he did.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it possible he would have learned that via video games as he told ATC? BECK: I wouldn't speculate on it. I don't know.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to try to take a couple of calls, operator.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once again, if you'd like to ask questions, please press star and then the number one on your telephone key pad.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First question, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you any information about how he crossed the taxiway onto the runway?
BECK: Is this Dominic (ph)? Yes, Gary Beck. Dominic (ph), repeat the question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just asking if you have any information about how he got from the cargo stand out to the runway. How did he make it across the taxi ways to the runway?
BECK: I have not seen the tower tapes, so I wouldn't speculate on that. I think we'll have to leave it up to the FAA to give you that information.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it correct, he's called a ramp agent. Is his job baggage and charting the plane, or was it only working with the plane? Was he a baggage handler as well as ramp agent?
BECK: Yes, he was a ground service agent, so that would encompass loading, unloading bags and cargo, tidying the aircraft. And then as Brad mentioned before, he was also a member of the tow team which allowed him, qualified him to tow aircraft.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Operator, next call.
NOBLES: OK, we are going to pull out of this press conference. We'll continue to monitor it, but we want to talk about what we heard. I want to bring in CNN aviation and government regulation correspondent Rene Marsh, CNN transportation analyst and former inspector general Mary Schiavo, and CNN military analyst and former press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby. Thank you all for joining me.
We just were hearing there from the CEO of Alaska Airlines, Horizon Airlines representatives there as well, FBI agent, the special agent in charge, Jay Tabb, for that area. And I would imagine that a lot of what we heard didn't come as too much of a surprise. But Mary, I want to start with you. The one thing that stood out to me, they made very clear there was no security breach here. This was someone who had the credentials to be where he was. He basically just took advantage of the situation. Was that your sense?
MARY SCHIAVO, CNN TRANSPORTATION ANALYST: Well, technically, there's no security breach in terms of credentialing. But, again, the overall federal regulations require the airline, the operator, the 121 operator, commercial passenger service operator, to have control of its aircrafts. So technically the person flying this plane didn't breach his credentialed security. He didn't lie to get his credentials or he didn't go to an area of the airport that he couldn't go to. But still over all technically speaking, because they didn't control their aircraft from unauthorized persons, there was a breach.
NOBLES: Right, right. And Rene, anything specific stand out to you during that press conference?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: A couple of things. Obviously, the investigation is still very young, so there's a lot that they couldn't say. Obviously, they didn't identify him, but a couple of things stood out. Number one, the guy been on the job three and a half years. So they know who he is as far as background checks. Within the industry sometimes, that specific type of job or position, the ground crew, there is a high turnover rate. And so many times in order to keep the ground crew staffed, they will do an interim background check while they're waiting for more in-depth one.
[14:40:01] But that's clearly not the situation here because this guy has been with the company for three-and-a-half years. So that stuck out there.
The other thing that stuck out is, again, the fact that, number one, we still don't know according to the FBI for sure if anyone else was on board. They strongly believe that he was the only one on board, but the FBI saying there they haven't been able to make it to the wreckage yet, to put their eyes on the wreckage and know 100 percent that no one else was on bard. So that's the one thing lingering there.
Then the other issue, we saw the loop. We were looking at the video there, but they say they don't have any indication that he had a pilot's license or anything like that. So the question becomes, how did he pull this off, because that's not an easy feat to pull out a commercial aircraft with zero experience and be able to do what we saw there.
NOBLES: Mary, I'd like to bring you in on that. There's some speculation that perhaps he learned this through video games. Is it possible to pull off the degree of difficulty that he was able to do by just learning from a flight simulator on a computer?
SCHIAVO: Well, actually, aided by the plane. And when they gave this person, a reporter mentioned a person's name, and while we were watching the press conference, I went online to the name of the person that they gave, and this person says he's the flight service person at the airline. And he has on his web site, if it's the same person, actually videos of flight, and he was doing a school project where he was posting stuff about aviation and looking at videos, surprising videos. And you could get a flight program for exactly this plane. In fact, the flight program says Alaska on the side of it for about $50 online. So it's possible to do it online.
NOBLES: Admiral Kirby, let's got to you now in terms of the federal response to this and how quickly those F-15 fighters were put in the air. We heard in the press conference, and the officials were pressed on this and they didn't really give us all that much information, but essentially they said that he ignored any type of communication from the tower as he was taking off. They just described it over and over again as an unauthorized flight. How quickly do you think they must have been in contact with the Air Force to get those planes in the air as soon as possible?
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It had to have been, Ryan, in minutes. And military sources I'd been talking to told me that those F-15 fighters were in fact on scene within minutes of being scrambled and taken off from the base down in Portland. So all of this must have had to have transpired very, very quickly. And, you know, that's a tribute to not only those pilots and the air crew that put them in the air, but the system itself that's been in place since 9/11 to better secure our air defenses across the country.
NOBLES: And describe that for me a little bit. I know you had some reporting about the fact that not only did they sidle up next to him in those aircraft but they were actually talking to him.
KIRBY: Right. That is right. The first step is you make yourself visible, because sometimes just the sight of a fighter aircraft like that can get somebody like this individual to change their calculus, to change the mind of whatever they're trying to do, calm them down, make sure that they know that there is somebody is up there with them. When that doesn't work they also try hand signaling, they try to communicate over hand signals. And when a situation is persisting the way this one did for almost an hour, eventually they're going to get on the radio and speak to the individual in the cockpit.
And that's what happened in this case. Ryan, we have information from military officials that the two F-15 pilots were in radio communications with this 29-year-old who hijacked this airplane.
NOBLES: As we said many times today, this could have been a lot worse but there's obviously some lessons to be learned. Rene Marsh, Mary Schiavo, John Kirby, thank you all for joining me.
And it's been one year since the deadly protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. Coming up, what the president is saying today about the riots and racism in America.
[14:48:28] NOBLES: And in just the last few minutes, officials from several different airlines and the Seattle airport gave a briefing on the situation in Seattle where a ground services worker at the SeaTac Airport basically stole an airplane, a 76-passenger commuter airline, and took it into the air, did a number of stunts over the skies of Seattle, and then purposely crashed the plane on an island nearby. Those officials have yet to reveal the identity of the person who is responsible for this crash, only to say, to give us his age and to confirm the fact that he was a three-and-a-half year employee of the airline. Right now the airline is trying to figure out what led to this, why
the individual decided that he was going to take on this huge risk, and investigating whether or not there were any security protocols that were violated, and whether or not they can close some of those loopholes. That press conference just wrapping up a few minutes ago, and our Kyung Lah was in the press conference. Kyung, they didn't really reveal all that much information from what we were trying to learn about this situation. What was your biggest takeaway?
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There were a few takeaways for me. We did get some of the nuances of exactly who this employee was, that he was a three-and-a-half year employee, that he was fully credentialed. He had access to this area. It is a secured area. He went through the background checks. It's a 10 year background check, and this criminal background check takes place and is renewed every two years.
[14:50:04] He had enough time and was not -- did not raise any red flags because he was able to get into a pushback trailer, push back this plane, get into it, start it somehow, which is a complicated process, according to this airline, and then take off in it.
So those sorts of nuances we're learning a bit more of, but we don't have some of the big questions answered. We don't know who this man is. They would not be able to confirm the identity at this point. We don't know exactly what led to this crash, if the gentleman took this plane down himself, if he ran out of fuel. We just don't know. At this point the FBI says that they're still trying to sort all of those details and let the FBI and NTSB figure all of out that, Ryan.
NOBLES: Kyung, that is an excellent point that you raised, then describing what he needed to go through in order to even get that plane off the ground. It seems pretty remarkable he actually had to get into something to push the plane back and then get in the plane and take off. The other thing that they revealed is they describe this as an unauthorized takeoff in every way, which would seem to indicate that he ignored responses from the control tower. But we'll continue to keep an eye on this story. Kyung Lah, thank you for that report live from outside that press conference.
We're going to take a quick break, and we'll be right back. Thank you for watching.
NOBLES: Charlottesville, Virginia, on edge today one year after a white nationalist rally turned violent and deadly. Just in the past hour members of Antifa began marching in Charlottesville. Last year the anti-fascist group clashed and fought with white supremacists while they held a rally protesting the removal of a Confederate statue.
This morning President Trump is calling for calm, tweeting "The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division. We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to all Americans." A state of emergency is in effect in Virginia, and law enforcement in
Charlottesville taking no chances after being criticized last year for being unprepared. In a show of force, police are already patrolling the streets on this anniversary.
[14:55:01] Let's go now to CNN's Kaylee Hartung. She's monitoring the situation in Charlottesville for us. Karylee, protesters with Antifa started marching. We just showed those pictures. What are you learning about the current situation there?
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ryan, with so much of that negative energy that infiltrated Charlottesville a year ago being organized in Washington, D.C. this year, the focus in Charlottesville for much of this community is on the continued healing process. We did see an organized demonstration by those anti-fascist protesters, but the woman I spoke to within that group said their only goal was to come here, to honor Heather Heyer. They entered through one of the two entry points in this secure perimeter of the downtown area. They had their bags searched like everyone else who enters the area has. And they made a very brief march, about three blocks down, and they turned this corner. They visited Heather Heyer's memorial, they paid their respects. They actually asked the media to step back, to give them two minutes to have that moment at peace with her.
It's a walk that so many people in this community are making today, Ryan, because people want to pay their respects to her. They want to honor her memory. And some, it's a moment to really reflect on the shock that they experienced a year ago and the challenges that are still ahead.
But also, important on the to do list for so many people in Charlottesville, Ryan, that's patronizing. That is visiting these downtown establishments, showing the support for the businesses downtown as well as each other.
NOBLES: All right, Kaylee Hartung who covered this story when it happened a year ago. Thank you for your reporting today in Charlottesville. Thanks, Kaylee.
And thank you so much for joining me. I am Ryan Nobles. The CNN Newsroom continues with Ana Cabrera right after this break. Have a great day.
ANA CABRERA, Charlottesville: It is 3:00 eastern, noon out west. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. You're live in the CNN Newsroom. Thank you for being with us.
We begin with a truly terrifying situation. A commercial airplane stolen. Let's get straight to the video. That plane right there, the one doing flips in the air, is not being flown by a pilot. It is being flown by an airline employee.