Airplane theft shows potential dangers from airline workers

Irving Hamilton
August 12, 2018

The biggest question: How did ground service agent Richard Russell - whose job includes directing planes for takeoff and gate approaches as well as baggage handling and de-icing - manage to steal a 76-seat Horizon Air turboprop and fly it for almost an hour Friday night with military jets in pursuit before plunging into a wooded island?

San Francisco: A young, "suicidal" airport worker who stole an empty plane from Seattle-Tacoma Airport and took it on an hour-long flight before crashing did not commit any security violations, officials said Saturday.

The United States has approximately 900,000 aviation workers, according to the most recent federal data, and the screening procedures they are subjected to are "pretty rudimentary", said Mary Schiavo, the former inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Authorities ruled out any link to terror.

The incident, which the FBI's Seattle office did not consider terrorism, raises questions about airport security.

In a video posted on YouTube last December, Russell shows luggage coming off and being loaded onto aircraft, and describes what the life of a ground service agent can entail. It's understood he may have been in uniform when he boarded the aircraft.

"It was unfathomable, it was something out of a movie", King told the Times. Horizon Air is a division of Alaskan that flies shorter routes in the western US.

The statement was read by family friend Mike Matthews, on behalf of Mr Russell's loved ones, who pleaded for privacy for the family and said this would be the only time the family would address the media.

"It may seem hard for those watching at home to believe, but Beebo was a warm, compassionate man", Mathews said. In a blog post, he said he and his wife met while at school in OR in 2010 and married a year later.

Extraordinary audio of the Seattle hijacker conversation with air traffic controller
Flights out of Sea-Tac, the largest commercial airport in the Pacific Northwest, were temporarily grounded during the drama. They said F-15 fighter jets were scrambled from Portland and "made it within a few minutes of theft of plane".

Video footage on social media showed the plane flying above the Seattle area with an F15 fighter jet following it. Witnesses reported seeing the plane being chased by military aircraft before it crashed on Ketron Island, about 40 kilometres south-west of Tacoma, Washington.

"Commercial aircrafts are complex machines".

Flames pour from the crash site. He also moved the plane by himself while protocol calls for two people to tow an aircraft.

Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor called it a "joyride gone terribly wrong". He was chased by military jets before crashing into an island in the Puget Sound.

According to the unverified Twitter profile of the Pierce County Sheriff's Department, the plane was stolen by a mechanic from an unknown airline company, based on preliminary information.

President Donald Trump was briefed on the incident and is monitoring the situation, press secretary Sarah Sanders said Saturday morning.

But the plane made turns and aerobatic maneuvers that suggest some skill, she said. "Most terrorists don't do loops over the water". "I lift a lot of bags", he says on the video". "Now let's land that airplane safely and don't hurt anybody on the ground", the helping pilot radios. I wouldn't want to do that. "I'm glad you're not, you know, screwing up everyone else's day on account of me".

"Rich" explains that he had put some fuel in the plane "to go check out the Olympics", but then anxious that he was low on gasoline.

"The fact that all of that happened without even being noticed by anyone on the ground service crew, that is just phenomenal to me".

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