The theft of a commercial jetliner in Utah early Tuesday by a rogue pilot is unprecedented in modern aviation history, an industry consultant and two airline pilots tell the Salt Lake Tribune. Under the cover of darkness, a SkyWest pilot, suspected of murdering a former girlfriend in Colorado Springs last week, sneaked aboard the empty 50-seat jet, started its engines, scraped the terminal building with the left wing, then crashed into several vehicles before coming to a stop.
The pilot, Brian Joseph Hedglin, then committed suicide. “I've never heard of it, ever,” said Mike Boyd, an aviation consultant in Colorado. “Not a lot of people know how to fly. This is unprecedented because it was a pilot. It wasn't a random act. It was a pilot who wanted to steal an airplane.” Two airline pilots said they had never heard of a similar occurrence in the U.S. There have been thefts of smaller, personal aircraft, but to their knowledge nobody had ever managed to steal a passenger jet. “Psychological screening on pilots is so thorough that it's unlikely that you'd have this sort of thing,” one of the pilots said.