Man who stole plane was funny, hardworking, former colleague recalls

Passenger plane stolen by airline employee at SeaTac Airport crashes in South Puget Sound | CHEK

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 USA fighter jets scrambled.

The man sounds calm at times and jokes with operators on the ground, who try to direct him to places to land.

"I got a lot of people that care about me, and it's going to disappoint them to hear that I did this", says the man. They should've gone over and said "Hey, ' if nothing else, 'Can I help you?"

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

After a ride full of risky loop-the-loops moves and freakish conversation with the air traffic controllers, Richard wasn't able to land safely and crashed into a heavily wooded area on Ketron Island causing the jet became engulfed in flames.

Federal authorities on Saturday were seeking to learn what drove an airline worker to steal an empty airplane from Seattle's airport in a security scare that caused the scrambling of USA fighter jets and ended when the plane crashed.

The sheriff's department said "preliminary" information was that the plane's pilot was "a mechanic from unknown airlines" who "was doing stunts in air" or lacked flying skills.

At a news conference in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, officials from Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air said that they are still working with authorities as they investigate what happened.

The 76-seat Horizon Air turboprop plane took off without authorization around 8 p.m. local time, with a Horizon Air employee who was not a pilot at the controls, airport officials tweeted. He was only identified as an employee for Horizon Air, in a statement by Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden.

Authorities said the man was a Horizon employee for three and one-half years, had clearance to be among aircraft, and was a Horizon Air ground service agent.

There was no connection to terrorism, Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the sheriff's department, said.

He estimated that the plane at its lowest point was no more than 100 feet (30.5 meters) above the water. Separate audio, being shared on social media, seems to suggest the man thought he could land the aircraft by himself because he had played "some video games". The conversations he had with air traffic control doing his time in the air have also been released.

They called a second alarm, Adams said, to get more crews out to the island.

Richard then says he feels like one of the engines "is going out or something".

The sheriff's office also said that the F-15s arrived minutes after the plane was stolen and kept the aircraft "out of harm's way and people on ground safe".

In addition to the airport itself, Horizon Air issued a statement on the crash on Saturday morning.

Investigators said they don't believe Russell had a pilot's license and they're unsure how he was able to fly the way he did. I wouldn't know those things.

One colleague said, "People did not see him as a threat". F-15 fighter jets were sent from Portland to control the situation and, if necessary to intercept it.



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