Seattle baggage handler who stole and crashed airliner was 'broken guy'

A Q400 Turboprop like that stolen from Sea Tac International Airport

Federal authorities were searching on Saturday for what drove an airline worker to steal an empty airplane from Seattle's airport and crashing it into a nearby sparsely populated island, sparking a security scare that saw United States fighter jets scrambled.

A MECHANIC stole a plane from Seattle airport and joked with air traffic controllers before crashing into an island.

A U.S. official briefed on the matter told The Associated Press the man was Richard Russell.

Two F-15Cs from the 142nd Fighter Wing from the Portland Air National Guard Base in OR were scrambled on Friday evening after a "suicidal" airline employee absconded in a Bombardier Q-400 twin-turboprop airliner out of Seattle International Airport before crashing the aircraft on a small island.

Ketron Island is a sparsely populated island 25 miles (40 km) southwest of the airport.

Referring to audio recordings of Russell talking to air traffic control during his hour-long flight, the statement said his "intent was not to harm anyone".

"There is a runway just off to your right side in about a mile", the controller says, reffering to an airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

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"The energy in that place was unbelievable". "There were a lot of roars happening and it was good fun to be out there". Did he worry that a day like this might not ever come again? "I don't know what to say to that".


"Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there".

Twenty-nine-year-old Russell, who did not have a pilot's license, worked for Horizon Airlines, a subsidiary of Alaska Airlines, helping baggage handlers.

In one, the controller can be heard telling the pilot: "What we don't want to see is you get hurt or anyone else get hurt, so like I said, if you want to land, that's probably the best way to go". He mentioned "having a few screws loose" and demonstrated signs of suicidal ideation.

In a statement to CNN, Russell's family described him as "a faithful husband, a loving son and a good friend".

The Sheriff's Department said it was "not a terrorist incident". The Q400 ix a turboprop aircraft with 76 seats.

The airline was coordinating with the Federal Aviation Administration, the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board, he said. "Here we have an employee who was vetted to the level to have access to the aircraft and had a skill set proficient enough to take off with that plane".

Pierce County Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer told the Bellingham Herald that information was preliminary regarding the developing incident.

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"Everybody wanted to be around Beebo", track and field coach Gary Howell told the Anchorage Daily News.

Constance von Muehlen, chief operating officer of Horizon Air, a sister carrier of Alaska Airlines, said that at about 8pm an employee of the airline undertook an unauthorised take-off of a Q400 twin-engine turboprop airplane.

Authorities say the man went through various background checks to get clearance to be in the secured area. The plane was believed to be empty except for Russell.

They said F-15 fighter jets were scrambled from Portland and "made it within a few minutes of theft of plane".

In a video posted on YouTube last December, Mr Russell shows luggage coming off and being loaded onto aircraft, and describes what the life of a ground service agent can entail.

I understand the person may have been doing some air stunts or whatever.

Sea-Tac Airport has issued its official response to the hijacking incident on Friday night, assuring the public that there is no further danger. So many bags, " he said.

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