Federal Aviation Administration reported a stolen Bombardier Q400 aircraft from Horizon Airlines from Seattle-Tacoma airport and requested DoD assistance. North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) launched 2 F-15C alert aircraft from Portland, who proceeded to intercept the Q400 in the vicinity of McCord AFB. The fighters were directed to fly supersonic to expedite the intercept.
The stolen aircraft initially tracked south from Seattle-Tacoma. NORAD fighters were working to redirect the aircraft out over the Pacific Ocean when it crashed on the Southern tip of Ketron Island in the Southern end of Puget Sound. NORAD fighters did not fire upon the aircraft. The event was subsequently passed to local rescue and law enforcement.
"I appreciate the quick reaction and professionalism of our Airmen and the entire NORAD team who were on alert today, as they are every day of the year," said General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command.
Since September 11, 2001, NORAD aircraft have been on alert and conducted more than 1,800 intercepts of non-military aircraft under Operation NOBLE EAGLE. Operation NOBLE EAGLE is the name given to the military response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and applies to all air sovereignty and air defense missions in North America. The vast majority of intercepts are conducted in the United States, but because NORAD focuses on the defense of both the U.S. and Canada, the response to potential aerospace threats does not distinguish between the two nations, and draws on forces from both countries.