Authorities probe how airline employee could steal plane

Posted August 14, 2018

Airline employee Richard Russell died after he took a commercial plane at the Sea-Tac Airport without permission and crashed it on an island in Puget Sound Friday night.

All the time while the plane was in the air, air traffic controllers gave the man instructions on how to fly a plane and tried to persuade him to land.

The plane flew erratically as air traffic controllers referred to the man flying the plane as "Rich".

This is probably jail time for life, huh?

During another part of the exchange, the man said he was concerned he was going to run low on fuel.

"Until the Federal Bureau of Investigation has the opportunity to get better background on the person, find out what motive they had, it's a little too early to make a determination on what the objective was", Debra Eckrote, the NTSB's western Pacific region chief, said at a news conference.

Officials said Saturday that the man was a 3.5-year Horizon Airlines employee and had clearance to be among aircraft, but that to their knowledge, he wasn't a licensed pilot. It crashed on the south of Ketron Island, near a military facility. There were no passengers aboard.

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"With regard to mental health, we do do screening in terms of background checking for all airport workers", Transportation Security Administration's David Pekoske told CBS News. "Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess".

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) scrambled F-15C fighter jets from a military base in nearby Portland to tail the Q400 and try to direct the rogue aircraft out towards the Pacific Ocean, with initial fears it could be an act of terrorism.

"We believe it [the plane] was taken by a single Horizon Air employee and no other passengers or crew were on board", she said.

"Doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills caused crash into Island", the sheriff said on Twitter.

A Coast Guard spokeswoman said the agency was responding to a report of a smoke plume and possible plane crash. Rescue boats were headed to the scene. It is imperative that in place of speculative comments here that you all please attend the next StART meeting at Sea-Tac airport, where there will be representatives from Alaska and other Airlines, FAA and Port of Seattle.

Video showed the Horizon Air Q400 doing large loops and other unsafe maneuvers as the sun set on the Puget Sound. Horizon Air is a division of Alaskan that flies shorter routes in the western US.

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