Richard Russell took off in a stolen aircraft at Seattle-Tacoma Worldwide Airport on Friday night time, flew for about an hour with navy jets chasing him and crashed the 76-seater Horizon Air aircraft in a wooded island, authorities stated.
Russell was the one particular person aboard, and didn’t survive, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Division stated.
“It is a full shock to us,” the household stated in a press release Saturday night time. “We’re devastated by these occasions, and Jesus is actually the one one holding this household collectively proper now.”
Richard Russell labored at Horizon Air for years
Russell had labored as a Horizon Air floor service agent for three-and-a-half years. His job included directing plane for takeoff and gate strategy, dealing with baggage and tidying and de-icing planes.
Richard Russell, or “Beebo” as some known as him, was “a trustworthy husband, a loving son and a great good friend,” his household stated.
The 29-year-old was “variety and delicate to every particular person he met,” his household stated in a press release Saturday night time.
Officers do not consider Russell had a pilot’s license, and they do not know how he knew to fly the aircraft. Jeremy Kaelin stated he labored with Russell in 2016, and remembered “completely satisfied, humorous” chats with him within the break room.
“He was a pleasant man,” Kaelin stated. “He was positively one of many tougher working individuals on the ramps.”
F-15s didn’t convey the aircraft down.
Russell had labored a shift Friday when he took a aircraft parked in a upkeep space of the Seattle-Tacoma airport, stated Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Air Group, which owns Horizon Air.
He used a automobile often known as a pushback tractor to maneuver the empty 76-seat Horizon Air turboprop aircraft and took off with out authorization at 7:32 p.m. native time Friday, officers stated.
Russell flew for about an hour, speaking periodically with air site visitors controllers and making turns and even some aerobatic maneuvers as two armed F-15 jets adopted him, officers stated.
Video from a witness on the bottom reveals the aircraft at one level pulling up for a loop, placing the plane upside-down after which pulling again up simply ft above a physique of water.
The aircraft ultimately crashed on sparsely populated Ketron Island, beginning a fireplace within the woods and killing Russell. Nobody outdoors the aircraft was injured, officers stated.
The reason for the crash wasn’t instantly recognized however authorities stated the F-15s didn’t convey the aircraft down.
Gaps in airline safety
Whereas the crash solely killed Russell, the brazen stealing of a industrial airline from a significant US airport has uncovered a niche in airline safety.
FBI stated it doesn’t think about the incident terror-related as authorities attempt to piece collectively how a safety scare of that magnitude occurred at main airport.
Investigators on Saturday have been attempting to retrieve the aircraft’s flight knowledge recorder and its cockpit voice recorder.
“He may need been speaking to himself within the cockpit,” so the voice recorder might present further info that wasn’t recorded in radio site visitors, stated Debra Eckrote, regional chief for the Nationwide Transportation Security Board.
Consultants say the crash uncovered alarming gaps in airport safety, and is more likely to immediate a significant assessment trade safety measures.
“That is going to be a significant studying occasion for the trade,” CNN aviation analyst Justin Inexperienced stated. “It is a actually large deal.”
Russell managed to steal a 76-seat Horizon Air turboprop from a upkeep space by himself. He was in uniform, had correct credentials and had clearance to be in safe plane areas, in accordance with Brad Tilden, Alaska Airways CEO.
“They’re credential staff. They’re there to work on the airplanes. … That is aviation in America. The doorways of the airplanes should not keyed like a automotive. There’s not an ignition key like a automotive. The setup in aviation in America is we safe the airfield,” Tilden advised reporters Saturday.
He appeared to have damaged protocol a number of instances. He should not have been capable of board the aircraft alone and go unnoticed. He additionally moved the aircraft by himself whereas protocol calls for 2 individuals to tow an plane.
“The actual fact he was on the market by himself, towing the plane by himself … then shifting the tracker out of the best way, so he might get on the plane and transfer. The truth that all of that occurred with out even being observed by anybody on the bottom service crew, that’s simply phenomenal to me,” stated CNN analyst and former FAA security inspector David Soucie.
CNN’s Dan Simon, Jason Hanna, Mark LeBien and Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.