Stolen plane crashes after 'unauthorised take-off' from Seattle airport

Roman Schwartz
August 12, 2018

The incident is not thought to be terrorism-related.

"The person who stole it was either doing it on a lark, or was suicidal", Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said on Friday.

Witnesses reported seeing the plane being chased by military aircraft before it crashed. Russell used a push-back tractor to rotate the plane 180 degrees before getting in and taxiing the aircraft.

He estimated that the plane at its lowest point was no more than 100 feet (30.5 meters) above the water.

"There is a protocol to not allow anyone singularly to get onboard an aircraft", CNN safety analyst David Soucie said.

"Commercial aircrafts are complex machines".

This will be a major learning event for the aviation industry, CNN aviation analyst Justin Green said.

An air traffic controller called the man "Rich", and tried to convince the man to land the airplane. He mentioned "having a few screws loose" and demonstrated signs of suicidal ideation. "The situation was not their fault but I think they could have given a little more guidance or announced to the plane this is what's going on instead of leaving us all to fend for ourselves", said Leddy.

On a SoundCloud site, Russell interviews fellow ground service agents, asking them questions that include: "What was one of your best travel experiences using your flight benefits?"

As he was in the air, Mr Russell could be heard on audio recordings telling air traffic controllers that he was "just a broken guy". "Never really knew it until now", said Richard Russell. They said the family "is moving forward with the hard talk of processing our grief" and asked for space to mourn. It did not elaborate.

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"Oh, man, those guys will rough me up if I try and land there", the man says. "I would hope it is for a guy like me", he said. We have police boats, we have everybody responding.

"I don't need that much help".

"It evens out in the end", he says at the end of the video.

In a recording posted to Broadcastify, the pilot can be heard calmly chatting with Air Traffic Control. "You want me to ride the brakes in the cockpit" or 'Hey, what are you doing?' Nobody did that", said Kelly. The plane involved was a Horizon Air Q400 with no passengers on board, tweeted Alaskan Airlines.

Two F-15 fighter jets took to the air from a base in Portland, Oregon, and were on the scene within minutes. They pursued the aircraft before it went down on Ketron Island, between Tacoma and Olympia. The jets were armed but did not open fire, North American Aerospace Defense Command spokesman Cameron Hillier said by phone. "That's the one thing we had in common", said Halbert. "If he had the skill set to do loops with a plane like this, he certainly had the capacity to fly it into a building and kill people on the ground", he said. Unlike cars, there are no keys needed for the door or to turn on the plane, he said.

"It was unfathomable, it was something out of a movie", a resident who saw the crash told The Seattle Times.

It wasn't clear what training, if any, the man had as a pilot.

Richard Russell worked as a ground-service agent for Horizon Air. "This is what we call the inside risk", he said, explaining that the security measures should not only be aimed at passengers, but also at employees. Horizon Air is a division of Alaskan that flies shorter routes in the western US.

Debra Eckrote, NTSB regional chief, said investigators will focus on recovering the voice-data recorder and flight-data recorder from the wreckage.

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