Published: Tue, August 14, 2018
Finance | By Loren Pratt

Family, friends remember former Wasilla man who stole commercial airplane

Family, friends remember former Wasilla man who stole commercial airplane

The FBI said Sunday night that it had recovered the flight-data recorder and components of the cockpit voice recorder from the wreckage, as well as human remains.

The big question on many minds then - how could Russell obtain enough experience to take off in a Q400 and go for an apparent joy ride before crashing on Ketron Island. Video showed fiery flames amidst trees on the island, which is sparsely populated and only accessible by ferry.

Leaders at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport are preparing to gather Monday morning to discuss what policies could prevent insider security breaches similar to the Friday night heist of a turboprop plane that later crashed.

"It is highly fragmented", Debra Eckrote, the Western Pacific regional chief for the National Transportation Safety Board, said of the plane.

"So I think people will be revisiting their security provisions around the world following this case although it is a one-off". Not long before the crash, a pilot who'd been helping controllers advise Russell appears to mention the maneuver. Air traffic controllers tried to persuade Russell to attempt to land. I wouldn't know how to punch it in. "They've been trained to turn on and off the plane and things I wouldn't know, that regular ramp agents wouldn't know anything about", said Halbert. At one point, Russell says he is a "broken guy" with "a few screws loose".

The Bombardier Q400 turboprop is designed for short-distance flights and can seat 76 passengers.

Russell took the airplane from Cargo-1 on the north end of Sea-Tac, turned it 180-degrees using tow equipment before taxing it onto runway 16C, the center runway at the airport.

The aircraft is owned by Horizon Air, part of Alaska Airlines, who Mr Russell had been employed by for three-and-a-half years as a ground service agent.

Whatever made it possible for Russell to fly like he did, the fact he was so easily able to steal and take off in a large commercial passenger plane is expected to have significant repercussions in the industry, with moves taken to tighten security around airport employees to prevent such a bold theft occurring again.

The cause of the crash wasn't immediately known but authorities said the F-15s did not bring the plane down.


Gary Beck, President and CEO of Horizon Air, said in a statement the plane crashed "about an hour" after it left Sea-Tac airport.

The airline worker, whose nickname was Beebo, has not yet been formally named as the pilot of the plane but he has been identified as such by his family and by United States media.

"The greatest threat we have to aviation is the insider threat", Erroll Southers, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and transportation security expert, told the Associated Press.

An Alaska Airlines employee stole a plane and later crashed it on an island.

The two F-15C aircraft that scrambled from Portland didn't fire the plane, authorities said. The Pierce County Sheriff's Office described him as a "suicidal male".

According to Richard Russell - the identified culprit behind a brazen and ultimately fatal unauthorised flight above Seattle on Friday - the answer was not complicated: "I've played some video games before".

"Absolutely the kind of kid you want on your team", Howell told the Anchorage Daily News.

"He had that energy, that vibrance", Howell said. How you can scan against that kind of mental condition is very hard to know.

"I lift a lot of bags". Like a lot of bags.

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