Saturday, 18 August, 2018

US investigators find black box of crashed Seattle plane

Seattle Airport Employee Takes Off In Stolen Plane, Crashes Nearby - Digg Seattle Man Dead After Stealing and Crashing Plane, Investigation Underway
Priscilla Morrison | 13 August, 2018, 10:59

The theft of an empty plane by an airline worker who performed risky loops before crashing into a remote island in Puget Sound illustrated what aviation experts have long known: One of the biggest potential perils for commercial air travel is airline or airport employees causing mayhem.

"This is a complete shock to us", the family said in a statement Saturday night.

"Last night's event is going to push us to learn what we can from this tragedy so that we can ensure this does not happen again at Alaska Air Group or at any other airline", said Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Airlines. At one point he said that he had hoped he could have a "moment of serenity" in the air but that everything moved by too fast.

The biggest question: How did a ground service agent - 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?

His 75-minute flight during the golden twilight took him south and west, toward the Olympic Mountains.

The airport said he was fully credentialed and had access to the area from where he took the plane. They said it's not clear whether he had ever taken flight lessons or used flight simulators, or where he gained the skills to take off. Only the man behind the controls, later identified by authorities as Richard Russell, was killed, but the potential for catastrophic loss of life on the ground led to other flights being grounded and F-15 fighter jets scrambling.

The official wasn't authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Richard Russell, 29, is presumed dead.

Jeremy Kaelin said he worked with Russell, a ground service agent at Horizon Air, in 2016.

The aircraft was stolen at about 8 p.m. Alaska Airlines said it was in a "maintenance position" and not scheduled for a passenger flight.

Those employees direct aircraft for take-off and gate approach and de-ice planes.

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The "suicidal" man, who dreamed of joining the military, then said that he had thrown up and that he felt "dizzy".

Currently, the FBI has taken over the investigation of the incident and Alaska Air has stated that they are working with authorities and their own safety teams to "thoroughly understand the incident".

A two-acre fire burns early Saturday on the Puget Sound island where the plane crashed.

Video showed fiery flames amid trees on the island, which is sparsely populated and only accessible by ferry.

Investigators expect they will be able to recover both the cockpit voice recorder and the event data recorder from the plane.

The air traffic controller and a pilot tried to convince the man to attempt to land the plane - and to not attempt the aerobatic maneuvers - but were not successful.

"There is a runway just off to your right side in about a mile", the controller says, reffering to an airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He noted that the recording of Russell's conversation with air traffic controllers suggested he was not familiar with aviation terminology but he knew enough to attempt aerial maneuvers.

"I've got a lot of people that care about me", he said. "I would like to apologize to each and every one of them".

Wasilla wrestling coach Shawn Hayes said Russell was respectful and a good kid.

Richard Russell was a amusing, gentle and hardworking man, said family and a colleague of the airline employee who stole a passenger plane from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and flew it for an hour before he crashed and was killed.

Russell posted a video on YouTube last December showing luggage coming off and being loaded onto aircraft.

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