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Suicidal Mechanic Steals and Crashes Plane; Saudis Promise Investigation into Airstrike on School Bus; U.S.-Turkey Dispute; Race in America; Massive Mendocino Complex Fire Grows. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired August 11, 2018 - 03:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[03:00:00]

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Thank you for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier at the CNN Center out of Atlanta. We're following breaking news for you.

An aircraft has crashed near Seattle, Washington. This after a mechanic stole it from Seattle's main airport. The plane went down on Ketron Island, about 40 miles/65 kilometers southwest of the airport. The aircraft took off without authorization. Thankfully there were no passengers on the aircraft when it took off.

The person at the controls has only been identified as a 29-year-old Horizon Air mechanic from Pierce County, Washington. And this is a video of him flying this Q400 that he stole from an international airport. He is confirmed to have died in the ensuing crash.

The Pierce County sheriff says this was not a terrorism related incident. We also just received some of the radio transmissions from the tower and apparently the plane. This is a conversation between the air control tower and the mechanic flying this plane, take a listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CAPTAIN BILL, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: All right, Rich, this is Captain Bill. Congratulations, you did that. Now let's try to land that airplane safely and not hurt anybody on the ground.

RICH, PILOT: 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, you know.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

VANIER: Earlier Horizon's Air chief operating officer issued a statement about the crash.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CONSTANCE VON MUEHLEN, HORIZON AIR CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER: Good evening. I'm Constance von Muehlen, Horizon Air chief operating officer. I'm sorry to share with you this evening that at approximately 8 pm, one of our Q400 airplanes made an unauthorized takeoff from SeaTac Airport. We believe it was taken by a single Horizon Air employee and that no other passengers or crew were onboard. Shortly thereafter, it crashed on Ketron Island by South Tacoma.

Our hearts are with the families of the individual aboard as well as all of our Alaska Air and Horizon Air employees. We will provide more information as it becomes available.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: We've been hearing from eyewitnesses as well. Listen as this family what they saw.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were watching the sunset. And we like saw all the planes coming over us. And then -- so I was in their hot tub and we were like and we were just hanging out. And then we heard that boom. And yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

What did you think of that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We didn't know what it was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We thought it was something going on with McChord. That's our first thought. So we were sitting in those lounge chairs, watching the sunset. And then we saw the plane and then the jets going right behind it.

And my first thought was they are doing something at McChord. And I'm like, so late at night, you know, and then we heard a third jet and then we kind of were -- sunset was done. We went up to the house.

They were putting everything away down at the pool. And that's when they heard the boom. And I didn't hear that. So then my husband kind of put it all together. He turned it to the news or something. And he is like, that was the plane.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: Let's bringing in Mary Schiavo, CNN's aviation analyst, who joins us by Skype from Charleston, South Carolina.

Mary, we're now starting to really flesh out and understand more about this story. We don't know, we don't have the identification of the mechanic but we know he was 29 years old. They're checking his background. The sheriff's department is telling us this was a suicide flight. We

heard that conversation between the control tower and the flight. We also saw the video and you're learning a lot from that. It seems to me, the biggest takeaway is we are extremely, extremely lucky.

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, that's right. Extremely lucky and fortunate that this person, well, he said himself, he thought that would be it after he did the loop. But you know, very fortunate that there was no one on the ground apparently, where the plane eventually crashed. I mean, it's very fortunate in a lot of ways.

But in some ways, this is the way the system works. I mean, we have been open to this vulnerability for so very long. There was a lot of discussion about this after September 11th, 2001. Granted that's a long time ago and, you know, people, you know, people 21 were 5 years old back then. So it's kind of faded from our memories.

But there were discussions about -- the FBI looked at everybody at the airports then.

[03:05:00]

SCHIAVO: Who were the mechanics, who were the people working, putting parcels and cleaning the plane?

Who were all these people, the tens of thousands of people that go to airports every day but do not go through security?

That will reopen this question. But again, as far as a mechanic goes, you're trained, you're an AMP mechanic, you're trained to fix and to literally know how everything on the plane operates because you have to make sure it's operating when the pilot takes it off.

And if you're authorized, if you have this training, you are allowed to taxi, it's called run and taxi, you're allowed to run and taxi that plane around the airport. So there's not much to stop you.

Well, there's nothing to stop you. Once you're in the plane and the plane is running and you're taxiing that aircraft, if you choose to move onto the runway and take off, there's not much that anybody can doing to stop you.

VANIER: I think a lot of people listening to you right now will be very, very surprised that's all it takes to get somebody who has not had all the screening of a pilot, who does not have the flying ability of a pilot, to suddenly be controlling in the cockpit of an airplane on a runway. I think a lot of people will be surprised to hear that is all it takes.

SCHIAVO: Well, and we forget. There have been incidents and accidents before, where taxiing mechanics have, by accident, wasn't intentional, have run airplanes off the taxiway. I think there was one in Florida, maybe a Southwest plane about three or four years.

(CROSSTALK) VANIER: But this is a totally different order of magnitude.

SCHIAVO: Right, exactly. We forget that there are people on the airfield, who can, you know, literally have total access to all of the aircraft, the equipment. And they don't have a FAA medical certification, which is the way -- a lot of ways you can check if somebody has a medical or a mental problem.

It comes out on your physical. When you are a pilot, you have to have what's called an airman's medical. And on that, you must disclose by law to the Federal Aviation Administration whether you have -- take any drugs for depression, if you have any psychotic issues. You have to disclose to the FAA most any drug that you're taking.

And that's where you find that out. Well, mechanics don't have airmen medicals. That's the difference.

VANIER: I want to bring in some new video. I haven't seen it yet. So I'm going to look at it with you at the same time. The video's of the utmost importance right now, because the video that I've shown for you until now has already given you clues as to what kind of skill level the mechanic had.

So I'm not sure whether you can see this but --

SCHIAVO: I can.

VANIER: -- this is showing -- what do you learn from this?

What do you glean from all these videos you're watching?

SCHIAVO: Several things. First of all, he took a twin turboprop plane, you know, the easiest thing to fly or at least what you start out on. There's debate on what's the easiest thing to fly. But what you start out on is a single engine aircraft with a landing gear that does not retract. In other words, you take off, you have only one engine to worry about.

All you really need to know is the speed at which you can pull back on the yoke, rotate and the plane gets airborne. Here you've got two engines. This person obviously knew how to start and coordinate the engines, have them at the coordinated engine power so it would fly, at least at certain points, straight and level.

From the video that I see, the landing gear is retracted. So he properly stowed the landing gear, which would have been necessary to come out of that loop that he performed because the gear would have had so much drag. You know, it's hard to do that, anyway.

And, by the way, to do aerobatics, you have to have special aerobatic training and an aerobatic license and an aerobatic aircraft. So that was very difficult. So I learned from the coordinated, the twin engines, stowed the landing gear.

Performed a very difficult air show maneuver and then talked to the air traffic controller and didn't say he could not land, just said he didn't expect to come out of the loop alive.

VANIER: Yes, he said I thought this was going to be it.

SCHIAVO: Right.

VANIER: You know, as you were speaking, I was just recalling the last couple of incidents, where mental health and just somebody going rogue is either the factor or a possible factor in these accidents.

And this one didn't have deaths but -- apart from the mechanic. But if you think back --

[03:10:00]

VANIER: -- to the Germanwings flight three years ago, where the pilot had mental health issues and slammed the plane into a mountain, killing 150 people with him, if you think back to MH370 -- and we haven't elucidated the different possibilities on why that happened. There's still a big question mark.

But there are elements in that investigation to support also that the pilot may have gone rogue. There have been a number of instances in the last few years, where we have seen people just going rogue and finding loopholes in the security system.

SCHIAVO: That's right, because so much of the system is based on your initial qualification. Once you get that initial medical license, you know, that's where so much emphasis is placed. Now you have annual checks. You have to get your medical renewed every year.

But, you know, we tend to rely on, once you're in the system and operating in the system -- and, remember, this fellow obviously had an airframe power plant license, called an AMP. That takes a lot of training. They're difficult to get. You have to work with a lot of people day in and day out.

Once hired for that job, people tend to assume things operate normally and you're going along just fine.

I have to say that recording didn't sound normal to me. Maybe he had some sort of a break. But it didn't sound normal, a normal discussion.

VANIER: Yes. And I suspect we'll find out more about that. The FBI is now the lead on that investigation. The NTSB will be there in the morning. It's just past midnight West Coast time.

Mary Schiavo, thanks so much for joining us, Mary, CNN aviation analyst.

I want to tell you more about the video, the longest and the clearest one that we've been running since the beginning of the show. Earlier I spoke with the man who filmed that video.

Eyewitness John Waldron captured what you've been seeing and what has already provided so much information to analysts like Mary, on what exactly was going on.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN WALDRON, WITNESS: Thank you for having me here with you here tonight. So I decided go down to Chambers Bay for a nightly walk, like I often do. I noticed a couple of F-15s flying around, which isn't unusual in this area. Then I notice a twin engine turbo prop aircraft flying around and the two F-15s appeared to be chasing it, for lack of a better term.

So I just kind of blew it off and I thought, maybe they're practicing for an air show or something like that or who knows, you know. So I started to capture video just because I thought it was kind of bizarre. And I continued to watch. And then all of a sudden I noticed --

(CROSSTALK)

VANIER: Did you understand what you were seeing?

Did you understand what you were watching at the time?

WALDRON: Honestly, I thought they were practicing for an air show, to be perfectly honest. I had no idea that the aircraft had been stolen from SeaTac. I had no idea what was going on at all, honestly.

VANIER: But the F-15s, were they not moving in a menacing way?

WALDRON: They looked to me like they were chasing him away but I couldn't really tell from where. They were over an area we call Fox Island, which is in the background of that video, which is fairly populated.

And I noticed they were moving away from that area. They flew over it briefly and then headed back toward where I was at, shooting the video. But you know, they weren't flying fast. They were keeping pace with this other aircraft. But looked to me like they were chasing him down.

I thought, well, this is really odd, so I kept the video rolling. He pulled the stick back and did a complete loop in this aircraft.

(CROSSTALK)

VANIER: We are watching the maneuver right now. It is really impressive, just from a technical standpoint. It's stunning.

WALDRON: Absolutely, yes. I couldn't believe he recovered. And luckily, he did. And if I had to guess, I'd say maybe he was no less than 100 feet above the water but I was probably, I don't know, that was probably a mile away from where I was.

I thought, God, he'd better pull up or he's going to crash. So I was prepared to honestly run and take cover because I didn't know what was going on, if he had lack of flying skills or if he was just showing off. But I got a little worried for a second. And then he pulled pretty

much straight up and kind of at an angle and almost stalled the aircraft. Somehow, he got it leveled back off and then made his way down toward Steilacoom and Ketron Island.

And I turned away for a second, turned back and he was in what appeared to be probably a 30-degree dive toward Ketron Island. So I turned away again to watch the sunset, turned back again and that's when I heard the explosion, saw a bright pinpoint little --

[03:15:00]

WALDRON: -- area of flame and the smoke.

And thought, oh, my God, I think he just crashed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: That was John Waldron, an eyewitness who shot that video. We'll continue to bring you as much information as and when we get it on this plane crash as well as on the mechanic. For now, all we know, as I told you, he's 29 years old, he was a mechanic at the airport. He stole the plane.

They are working background on him.

Saudi Arabia promises an investigation into an airstrike in Yemen that killed dozen of children. We'll have the latest on than tragic incident after the break.

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VANIER: We're following breaking news. An aircraft crashed near Seattle, Washington, after a mechanic stole it from Seattle's main airport. The plane went down on Ketron Island about 40 miles/65 kilometers southwest of the airport. The aircraft took off without authorization and also without passengers Friday night.

The person at the controls of the plane has only been identified so far as a 29-year-old Horizon Air mechanic from Pierce County, Washington, confirmed to have died in the crash. We also just received some of the radio transmissions from the tower and apparently the plane. Listen to this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CAPTAIN BILL, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: All right, Rich, this is Captain Bill. Congratulations, you did that. Now let's try to land that airplane safely and not hurt anybody on the ground.

RICH, PILOT: All right. Damn it --

[03:20:00]

RICH: -- I don't know, man, I don't know. I don't want to. I was kind of hoping that would be it, you know.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

VANIER: The Pierce County sheriff says this was not a terrorism related incident.

Now I also want to tell you about other stories making news around the world. The Saudi led coalition fighting in Yemen says it will open its own inquiry into an airstrike Thursday that hit a school bus filled with children in Northern Yemen.

The U.N. Security Council is demanding a credible and transparent investigation. The coalition, which is backed by the United States, defended the airstrike as a legitimate military operation against Houthi rebels.

The bloody and battered bodies of dozens of small children tell a much different story, though. I have to warn you, the images you're about to we are horrible. But there is no sanitizing the reality of what's happening in Yemen. Here is CNN's Nima Elbagir.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are new images emerging from Yemen, images that really bring home the heartbreak of the aftermath of the strike by the Saudi-led, U.S.- backed coalition in that Northern Yemeni province of Saada.

The first video shows a father living through every parent's worst nightmare, desperately trying to find where his son is.

And this video, this tells the opposite side of that heartbreak, a father finding his son's body. The absolute and utter heartbreak in that man's voice brings to life what so many of those parents are struggling to live through.

This as the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, released a statement, saying that this was the single worst incident so far targeting children in Yemen's three-year ongoing civil war, a war between the Saudi-led coalition and Iranian-backed Houthi rebel militias, with the support of both the U.S. and the U.K. and, in many cases, their armaments, President Donald Trump back in June was touting a $110 billion arms deal.

And many observers believe that is why, while there has been limited calls for investigation, notably by the U.S. State Department but also by the U.N. secretary-general, there hasn't been the outrage that would be expected in the face of such an incident.

Even while parents were struggling to bury their dead, the airstrikes in Yemen continue. Eyewitnesses tell CNN, in just one district in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa alone, there were 21 airstrikes through to the morning after the attack. The war, it seems, continues and humanitarian agencies are worried

that, with it, will continue the suffering of Yemen's children -- Nima Elbagir, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: Turkey's president wants his citizens to exchange their gold and other currency for Turkish lira after Turkey's currency had its single worst day ever, falling 17 percent at one point. This comes after President Trump said U.S. tariffs on imports of Turkish steel and aluminum are being doubled.

Erdogan's spokesman tweeted, "No threat, blackmail or operation can discourage the will of Turkey."

John Defterios takes a closer look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: It was an awful day and a terrible week for Turkey's president and the Turkish lira. It ended with the U.S. president applying hefty sanctions on country's aluminum and steel exports.

The lira tumbled, fell by as much as 17 percent to a new all-time low, which sparked Recep Tayyip Erdogan to appeal to supporters to take action.

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, PRESIDENT OF TURKEY (through translator): Dollar and stuff will not stop us from building roads. Do not worry. But I am saying it again, if you have dollars, euros or gold under your pillow, exchange it for Turkish lira in our banks.

This is a national struggle. This will be answered by our people against those who wage economic war on us.

DEFTERIOS: It's a war he says Turks can win. Erdogan asked his countrymen to ignore the currency charts and focus on what's been built, new universities, hospitals, airports and bridges.

But his prolific spending is what many analysts say has left the country vulnerable. The lira is down some 40 percent against the dollar since the start of the year, with inflation spiraling to nearly 16 percent, the highest level in nearly a decade and a half.

There was attempt at damage control, with the new finance minister, who is the son-in-law of the president, unveiling a midterm recovery plan. That blueprint, analysts say, lacked clarity.

Problems in Turkey triggered worries in other countries and for European banks.

[03:25:00]

DEFTERIOS: Spanish, Italian and French banks have over $150 billion of exposure to Turkey. Clearly, though, matters worse on Friday for Turkey's president and the currency, when the U.S. president declared, "Bilateral relations are not good at this time." -- John Defterios, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: OK. Stay with us. We've got more news after this.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

VANIER: Welcome back. I'm Cyril Vanier. We are following breaking news this hour.

An aircraft has crashed near Seattle, Washington, after a mechanic stole it from Seattle's main airport. The plane went down on Ketron Island, about 40 miles southwest of the airport. The aircraft took off without authorization and without passengers Friday night.

The person at the controls of the plane -- we only know that person was a 29-year-old Horizon Air mechanic from Pierce County, Washington. He is confirmed to have died in the crash.

The Pierce County sheriff says this was not a terrorism related incident and initially presented this as a suicide flight.

Alan Diehl is a former accident investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board and for the Federal Aviation Administration. He joins us on the phone from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Alan, the NTSB, so your former colleagues, will be there very soon --

[03:30:00]

VANIER: -- they're going to be there shortly.

What's the first thing they're going to do?

ALAN DIEHL, FORMER ACCIDENT INVESTIGATOR, NTSB: They'll try to recover the two so-called black boxes, the voice recorder and the flight data recorder. That will provide a lot of clues. Clearly, though, the FBI, I believe, is going to be in charge of this.

VANIER: They are.

DIEHL: This is a criminal act and the NTSB supports the FBI in criminal acts.

VANIER: And what's the first thing the FBI is going to do?

DIEHL: Well, I would imagine they're going to listen to these air traffic control tapes very carefully. They have psychologists, clinical -- I'm a research psychologist. But their clinicians will be listening to his voice inflection. Obviously they'll try to get his medical records, interview all his colleagues.

They'll looking for any kind of suicide notes or anything. Hopefully they'll get a hold of his physicians and neighbors and talk to all those people. I suspect there will be dozens of FBI people on the scene tonight and probably a dozen or so NTSB people, assisting them tomorrow.

VANIER: What can you tell us about the mindset of somebody who does this, somebody who steals the plane and manages to take off and, clearly, had some kind of plan to cover up the stretch of time that it took him to taxi down the runway, et cetera?

And who does that?

DIEHL: Well, this individual has obviously been around the Q400 aircraft a lot. He's probably flown in the aircraft on maintenance flights so he knows how to fly the aircraft.

It sounds from that initial clip that this guy was almost happy and he was doing this as -- he was acting out, as a clinical psychologist often says. Whether or not it was a semi spur of the moment thing or if he plotted this for months or years, that's what the FBI, with the help of the NTSB, will be trying to establish.

But as Mary Schiavo pointed out in an earlier block, there's very little they can do at the airport to stop him.

So what's going through his mind?

Obviously, we'll have to look at what his background was, whether or not -- of course, they'll hopefully be able to recover enough tissue to do toxicological samples to see whether or not he was on any kind of controlled substances or alcohol. But it almost sounded, from the brief clip --

(CROSSTALK)

VANIER: Alan, before you even say what you're going to say, I want to play that clip so we can all hear it.

DIEHL: Please, please do.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CAPTAIN BILL, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: All right, Rich, this is Captain Bill. Congratulations, you did that. Now let's try to land that airplane safely and not hurt anybody on the ground.

RICH, PILOT: 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, you know.

(END AUDIO CLIP) VANIER: Look, this is a tiny fragment of the conversation that occurred between the control tower and the mechanic, who was flying the plane that you see screen left, and pulling off these pretty -- very daring maneuvers.

Alan, what does that tell you, that conversation?

DIEHL: Incidentally, I'm an aerobatic pilot and I have an airline transport license. This is a complicated airplane to fly, certainly not designed for aerobatics. So he actually did a pretty good job of being able to pull off those rather dramatic maneuvers. It sounds like he's kind of congratulating himself that he was able to do it.

VANIER: He seems thrilled.

DIEHL: Yes, he sounded thrilled. I didn't interpret his statement that he thought that was going to be it. He may have been thinking -- he may have been -- I'm speculating but he may have thought that he wasn't going to be able to be recover because that's a dramatic maneuver.

And when you're doing aerobatics you've got to really control air speed and yoke pressure, wheel pressure very carefully because you can stall. You can do an aerodynamic stall and literally fall out of the sky.

He pulled it off, at least in the maneuvers that we've seen on tape. Whether or not he intended to crash, you know, that's where the black boxes will come in. They'll be able to see if he pulled the throttles back or shoved the nose.

And they'll be able to determine whether or not this was an aerodynamic stall at impact or some deliberate maneuver a la the Germanwings pilot back in France a couple of years ago, where it was obviously an intentional suicide.

VANIER: And you know, Alan, there's something I wanted to run by you. This is just conjecture at this stage but a viewer in the last hour pointed something out to me, that a week ago and for several days, there was an air show in that same Seattle area, where you had a number of planes, big and small, all sizes and types of planes, that were performing --

[03:35:00]

VANIER: -- stunts and the kind of moves that we saw that mechanic pull off. And I just wonder, in the history of aviation crashes, have you ever seen anything like a copycat crash, somebody who just wants to try and do what he saw?

DIEHL: Well, I've read -- I also was a psychologist for the U.S. Air Force. And I've read about mechanics that thought they could fly. They're authorized to taxi and start, of course, aircraft. And there was this mechanic many years ago in the Air Force, who actually took a fighter plane just because he was convinced he could do it.

Now clearly this is not rational behavior. It's extremely rare. So I guess I'd have to say, Cyril, yes, but it's extremely rare.

I would really like to see what kind of information comes out of his toxicological reports and also the interviews with the coworkers. The best defense against any of this is random drug testing, which they are subject to. Mechanics do have to go through unannounced, random tests. Now they don't do it very often.

So, you know, he may have been between tests. So that's one good defense against it.

The other thing is what they call employee assistance programs, where other co-workers are taught to look for aberrant behavior, whether it's a pilot, mechanic, controller and so on.

And I don't know if Alaska Airlines has a program like that. I suspect they have some kind of -- I know they have a medical department and they have a great reputation in Alaska. And Horizon, of course, is part of Alaska. So we'll have to wait and see.

I think, within the next several days, Cyril, a lot of information will be forthcoming. Hopefully the FBI will not hold up the information as they get it. But I think, at this point, I'm not sure. Perhaps he was motivated by that air show.

(CROSSTALK)

VANIER: Of course. That's just conjecture. But I wanted to put it out there because people who live in the area do have that in the back of their minds. And that's a question I know has been raised for some of the people who live there.

And, Alan, thank you for your analysis. I want to bring to our viewers information that we're getting now from Alaska Airlines.

And it is consistent with the details that have been emerging over the last hour, hour and a half, that the airline believes it was a ground service agent employed by Horizon Air, who managed to seize the plane, grab the plane, a Q400, without clearance, of course, and then took that plane from a maintenance position.

And, obviously, that plane was not scheduled for passenger flight. The plane was airborne for about an hour, we're now being told, before it crashed on Ketron Island. The military jets were scrambled. But again, this is consistent with what we knew, they did not shoot down the plane.

It does not appear that they were involved in the crash of the aircraft.

So that's what we're hearing now; the first responders are at the crash sites and the FBI is now leading this investigation.

Alan Diehl, thank you so much for your insights and explanation on this rapidly developing story. Thanks, Alan.

DIEHL: Thanks for having me, Cyril. VANIER: Now we turn to a grim anniversary. How a U.S. city traumatized by white nationalist protests last year is preparing. That's just ahead.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[03:40:00]

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VANIER: Quick recap on the breaking news out of the Seattle, Washington, area that we've been following. An aircraft has crashed near Seattle after an airline mechanic stole it from a maintenance area at Seattle's main airport.

Now the plane went down on Ketron Island, about 40 miles southwest of the airport. No building was hit when the plane crashed. The aircraft was not authorized to take off. There were no passengers, fortunately, on the plane, apart from the mechanic.

So what do we know about the person who did this?

Well, he's 29 years old. He's a mechanic with Horizon Air. He's from Pierce County, Washington. That's what we know so far. And authorities, the sheriff's department tells us they are working the background of that person.

He is confirmed to have died in the crash. We also just received some of the radio transmissions from the control tower and the airplane. Take a listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CAPTAIN BILL, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: All right, Rich, this is Captain Bill. Congratulations, you did that. Now let's try to land that airplane safely and not hurt anybody on the ground.

RICH, PILOT: All right. Damn it, I don't know, man, I don't know. I don't want to. I was kind of hoping that would be it, you know.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

VANIER: Military jets were scrambled from Portland during the incident. It doesn't appear these jets were involved if the crash, though. The Pierce County sheriff is stressing that this was not linked to terrorism.

In other news, this weekend marks one year since violent racist protests rocked the city of Charlottesville, Virginia. The state's governor has declared a state of emergency and police are stepping up security ahead of the anniversary of the clashes, in which an anti- nationalist protester was killed.

On Sunday, white nationalists and right wing groups plan to gather in Washington for what they call a white civil rights rally.

The U.S. president is ignoring this, at least on Twitter. He is using the platform to take a stand against a different set of protesters.

On Friday, Trump condemned a small group of U.S. football players who kneeled during the national anthem. The athletes are calling attention to racial injustice and inequality and they say the way Mr. Trump is handling it is making the whole problem worse. Here's CNN's Jake Tapper.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Few acts can prompt a presidential tweet as predictably as an NFL player protesting racial injustice during the national anthem.

After some football players took knees and raised fists during preseason games last night, President Trump embrace what he believes is a winning issue for him, notwithstanding how divisive it is, sounding off on Twitter, saying players, quote, "wanted to show their outrage at something that --

[03:45:00]

TAPPER: -- most of them are unable to define. Find another way to protest," unquote.

Of course, plenty of players, including Philadelphia Eagle Malcolm Jenkins, who raised his fist Thursday, have defined their motivations, often and in detail.

MALCOLM JENKINS, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: I don't see how we should somehow be quiet when we want to talk about racial equality or inequality and social justice.

TAPPER: The president's campaign against NFL players staging these civil rights protests began in September 2017.

TRUMP: Get that son of a (INAUDIBLE) field right now.

TAPPER: According to sworn testimony from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, the president in a private conversation had told him that the issue was, quote, "a very winning, strong issue for him," adding, "This one lifts me."

But critics cry it lifts up bigotry as well.

CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT, NAACP: Our commander in chief is in fact the racial opportunist in chief in this country.

TAPPER: All this as we approach the one-year anniversary of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, after which the president failed to denounce its racist attendees clearly, decisively and without any moral equivalencies between neo-Nazis and those protesting neo-Nazis.

TRUMP: I think there's blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it.

TAPPER: Critics and many prominent African-American say hateful racial rhetoric has only amplified since.

SPIKE LEE, DIRECTOR: Since this guy's got in the White House, it's not even a dog whistle. It's a bullhorn.

TAPPER: Racists seem to be more comfortable coming out of the shadows, such as this neo-Nazi telling CNN's Sara Sidner why he voted for President Trump.

DANIEL BURNSIDE, ULYSSES RESIDENT: Rural America spoke up when they elected Trump. We have the possibility of becoming a minority in our own country, a possibility of becoming a minority in our own country.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It sounds to me like you're afraid of being me.

And being me...

BURNSIDE: This is my country.

SIDNER: ... is great.

This is also my country.

BURNSIDE: You guys didn't win the culture war.

TAPPER: That culture war rages on.

D.L. HUGHLEY, ACTOR AND COMEDIAN: Our country is being torn apart. There is -- there is a spirit in this country that is so vile, I don't even know if America can -- I don't think we can come back from that.

TAPPER: The conversations can be difficult. Kanye West was once quick to pounce on perceived racism from the White House after Hurricane Katrina.

KANYE WEST, MUSICIAN: George Bush doesn't care about black people.

TAPPER: But West now considers himself a Trump supporter. And last night he had trouble answering this simple question from Jimmy Kimmel.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": You so famously and so powerfully, said George Bush doesn't care about black people.

It makes me wonder what makes you think that Donald Trump does or any people at all?

Why don't we take a break?

We will come back.

And Kanye West...

(LAUGHTER) TAPPER (voice-over): Jake Tapper, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: Larry Sabato is with me, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

Larry, for you, this story was perhaps more personal than you would have wanted it to be. Charlottesville is where you teach and you were near where the first rally took place with your students. Tell us about that moment and that weekend.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Yes, it was a year ago. I live on the University of Virginia Lawn, which is where these neo-Nazis marched. We didn't have much notice that they were coming through the grounds of the University of Virginia.

But I had enough notice to get out and to gather some of the students together, particularly the African Americans and Jewish students who live on the lawn here, and get them into my basement.

We had to hide them because the sounds and the chants were so fearsome, "Jews will not replace us" and "blood and soil," one of Hitler's favorite slogans. And the one that will stick with me forever, "into the ovens." Think about that, Cyril, "into the ovens," referring, of course, to the Holocaust in Germany during World War II.

So essentially the line of neo-Nazis stretched as far as our graduation lines ever do. I couldn't believe how many of them there were, all carrying tiki torches, all appearing very menacing, some of them clearly with weapons of various sorts. And anything could have happened.

VANIER: So let's talk about the national politics of this. This has been huge in the national conversation and race is still a very central part of the national conversation.

How do you think Charlottesville and the events of that weekend changed the debate on race in the U.S.?

SABATO: I'm sorry to say it changed it less than I thought it might. I really thought that it might be an opportunity to make progress on a national level. But it hasn't, in part, because the President of the United States, I think, has capitalized on it in quite a number of ways and continues to use dog whistles that send various racial signals.

VANIER: Let me then address the issues of actual electoral --

[03:50:00]

VANIER: -- strategy, electoral tactic.

How does he win, how does he keep his voters, how does he potentially get re-elected?

Is it a winning strategy to pick fights with NFL players, black athletes and other black figures?

SABATO: Unfortunately, it is. His coalition is massively white. He received very few African American votes, relatively few Hispanic votes, relatively few Asian votes. His coalition is overwhelmingly white.

And so as long as he encourages their solidarity around the social issues that he can identify with, then he's going to be benefited. And he probably increases the turnout of the white portion of the population, which also disproportionately is over 60 years old. And his strongest support comes from senior citizens.

VANIER: Larry Sabato, always a pleasure to speak to you on, especially on a day like today, on an issue like this issue. I wish you a good weekend, my friend. Thank you.

SABATO: Thank you, Cyril.

VANIER: When we come back, firefighters still have a long way to go as they battle more than a dozen huge blazes in California. We'll have that and more. Stay with us.

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[03:55:00]

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VANIER: The biggest fire in California's history, the Mendocino complex fire, has now grown to more than 312,000 acres. That is more than 126,000 hectares. It destroyed nearly 230 structures in the northern part of the state. The blaze is about 60 percent contained.

Meanwhile, the man accused of starting a large fire near Los Angeles was in court on Friday, where he yelled, "It is all a lie."

He is due back in court later this month. The fire he allegedly set has forced more than 21,000 people from their homes.

And NASA is making more history. Any minute now, it is launching an unmanned spacecraft toward the sun. The Parker Solar Probe is fully autonomous. And if all goes according to plan, it will get closer to the sun than any spacecraft has ever flown.

The first data download back to Earth is expected in early December -- and these are live pictures you're watching.

Remember the Transformers movies, where robots are disguised as vehicles?

Well, in China, there's a man who turned himself into a vehicle. You can see him here, zooming through Northwest China in a homemade roller suit. You catch him there in the white car?

Dashcams and streetcams caught the daredevil riding his suit until police caught up with him. Reportedly he was inspired by a Jackie Chan movie. OK, then.

Thanks for watching. I'm Cyril Vanier. Natalie Allen and George Howell are up next. You're in great hands. Stay with us.