(Video: NBC News)
Nearly four years after a baggage handler stole an airplane for a joyride that ended in suicide, surveillance footage has been released showing his final moments on the ground where he told the control tower, “It’s gonna be crazy.”
Friday, August 10, 2018, 29-year-old Richard Russell arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SeaTac) in Seattle, WA where he worked as a baggage handler for Horizon Airlines. Less than five hours after passing through the employee security checkpoint, he was taxiing down the runway to embark on his fatal journey according to the FBI investigation.
Wearing a black t-shirt that read “The Sky’s No Limit” Russell can be seen entering the facility as normal before collecting a tow vehicle and driving it to the north side of the airfield hours after arrival. It was then that he hooked the tow to the Q400 Turboprop aircraft of which he climbed into the cockpit and ran through the preflight checks.
“The FBI investigation did not reveal that Russell received any formal flight training. However, investigators learned that Russell was familiar with the checklist of actions for starting an airplane,” the FBI report detailed. “Investigators were also aware of Internet searches Russell performed for flight instructional videos.”
After backing the plane out of its berth, Russell could be seen disconnecting the tow vehicle before jogging to the in-motion aircraft to enter it from the side door. Once seated at the controls he informed Air Traffic Control, “Seattle ground Horizon guy. About to take off. It’s gonna be crazy.”
For the next hour and 13 minutes the baggage handler remained in contact with the control tower as he relayed some of his thoughts on his experience stating, “Hey, I found myself in a predicament. I’m in the air right now. And just gonna soar around.”
Russell added, “Hey do you think if I land this successfully Alaska will give me a job as a pilot?” to which the controllers seemed to respond like hostage negotiators making an ally of the plane thief as they tried to talk him into entering a landing pattern at a runway, saying: “I think they would give you a job doing anything if you could pull this off.”
The Daily Mail detailed more of the conversation as Russell concluded the situation was not going to end well for him, “Oh those guys will try to rough me up if I try land [sic] there…I think I might mess something up there too. I wouldn’t want to do that. Oh they probably have got anti-aircraft.”
“They don’t have any of that stuff, we are just trying to find you a place to land safely,” came the response. Meanwhile, two F-15 fighter jets from Portland had been scrambled to intercept the plane in what was reported as the worst break in airline security since September 11.
Shortly before Russell was said to have intentionally crashed the plane on Ketron Island he had said over the radio, “This is probably jail time for life, huh? I would hope it is for a guy like me.”
However, nothing in the investigation was able to determine a motive for Russell’s actions that day as the report read, “Although investigators received information regarding Russell’s background, possible stressors, and personal life, no element provided a clear motivation for Russell’s actions.”
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