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Fatal joyride points to gaps in airport security

Plane in the air
A stolen Horizon Air turboprop plane does maneuvers. (John Waldron via KING5)

The day after a Horizon Air employee stole an airplane, flew aerial stunts and crashed into a sparsely inhabited island in Puget Sound, airline executives acknowledged that more will have to be done about insider air security.

“Yesterday’s events will push us to learn what we can from this tragedy so that we can help prevent it from ever happening again, at our airline or any other,” Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Air Group, said today during a news briefing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Authorities said the pilot who made an unauthorized takeoff at 7:32 p.m. PT Friday was a 29-year-old ground service agent for Horizon Air, an Alaska Air subsidiary. “His job was to be around airplanes,” Tilden said.

Ground service agents typically load and unload baggage, tidy up the airplane after arrivals and take on other ground duties. The rogue pilot was authorized to operate the equipment that tows airplanes to and from runways.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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