'A few screws loose': Seattle pilot opens up to control tower

12 August, 2018, 20:45 | Author: Billie Castillo
  • A Q400 Turboprop like that stolen from Sea Tac International Airport

Family members of Richard Russell say they are "stunned and heartbroken" after the airline worker stole a passenger plane Friday from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and was killed when he crashed 25 miles away. The plane crashed either while the man was doing stunts or because of a lack of flying skills, according to the Sheriff's Department.

The Horizon Air Q400 plane of Alaska Airlines was taken by an employee from the airport which resulted in interruption of air traffic at the airport. Confirming this, the airport said, "No passengers were onboard during the incident and normal operations have resumed at the airfield".

The airport made a simple response to the plane that was stolen by a lone employee, in a post on the Sea-Tac official Twitter account.

It's unclear how Russell attained the skills to do loops in the aircraft, authorities said.

"Just a broke guy, got a few screws loose I guess".

Eventually the plane crashed in a remote wooded area of Ketron Island in Puget Sound, leaving behind a fiery pile of debris.

"I hope this doesn't ruin your day".

Alaska Airlines said no structures on the ground were damaged.

The mechanic, referred to as "Rich", said that he wanted to do "a barrel roll, and if that goes good.nose down and call it a night".

Toward midnight on Friday, the investigation was handed off to the FBI, which was working with the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and other agencies, the Seattle Times reported.

The freaky incident highlights one of the biggest potential threats for commercial air travelers - airline or airport employees causing mayhem, according to the report. "They're not as easy to fly as, say, a Cessna 150, so I don't know how he achieved the experience that he did", Beck said.

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Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said the man "did something foolish and may well have paid with his life".

"Oh, Richard", said the controller, "We're not going to worry or think about that".

In partial recordings of his conversations with air traffic controllers that were published online by Broadcastify.com, the man said he was sorry to disappoint people who cared about him and described himself as a "broken guy".

Pressed to land at Joint Base Lewis McChord, the pilot nervously joked about the fighter jets chasing his aircraft "They probably got anti-aircraft!"

Audio exchanges between an air traffic controller and the pilot have been released.

Horizon Air is part of Alaska Air Group and operates shorter routes throughout the US West.

The two F-15C aircraft scrambled from Portland didn't fire at the plane, authorities said. He didn't hear the crash, but saw smoke.

"His job is to be around airplanes", said Brad Tilden, CEO of Horizon's parent company Alaska Airlines.

Alaska Airlines on Twitter said the airplane was a turboprop Q400 airplane belonging to its sister carrier Horizon Air.

"It was unfathomable, it was something out of a movie", he told the newspaper.

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