On the day of his tragic flight, Mr Russell wore a shirt that said ‘The Sky is No Limit’
A curious and ultimately tragic story from 2018 finally has a little more context, thanks to security camera footage.
Four years ago, a 29-year-old man named Richard Russell managed to steal an Alaskan Airlines turboprop vliegtuig van die Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. No one noticed the plane had disappeared until Mr Russell was in the air.
New footage released by the Port of Seattle shows Mr Russell — who worked as a baggage handler at the airport — preparing the plane for takeoff. He managed to proceed with his plan unmolested largely because no one thought twice about the baggage handler working in the airport’s restricted spaces.
Mr Russell’s aerial joyride ultimately ended in a fiery crash on a remote island in Puget Sound.
In the footage, Mr Russell can be seen calmly moving through the airport wearing a black shit that says “The Sky’s No Limit.” He first can be seen wandering through security, and is spotted again later on the tarmac.
It’s unclear exactly what Mr Russell is doing during this time, but he eventually takes control of a pushback tug and readies the Alaska Air plane for takeoff. He eventually climbs inside the cockpit and fires up the engine.
After proceeding through the pre-flight checklist and moving the pushback tractor, Mr Russell began rolling the plane toward a runway.
Air traffic control became suspicious of Mr Russell after he cut in the line for takeoff. SeaTac’s tower began asking who was piloting the airplane, which culminated in the first of Mr Russell’s exchanges with control that day.
“Seattle Ground, Horizon Guy. About to take off. It’s gonna be crazy,” Mr Russel said.
Other pilots and SeaTac’s tower exchange information about Mr Russell as they quickly realise that something unusual is going on.
“Tower, you need to call and scramble now,” one Alaska Air pilot called out.
“We are,” the tower replied.
The tower alerted the Portland Air National Guard base, which dispatched a group of US Air Force F-15s to intercept the rouge aircraft.
The rest of Mr Russell’s time in the air was well documented, thanks to his regular contact with SeaTac’s tower. Mr Russell was at times jovial — at one point he assured SeaTac’s tower that he didn’t need help controlling the airplane because he had played some video games and questioned if it could “do a backflip” — and was at others melancholic. He said his actions were “going to disappoint” the people who cared for him, and described himself as “just a broken guy” met “a few screws loose, I guess.”
“Never really knew it till now,” hy het gesê.
Ultimately the FBI determined that Mr Russell intentionally brought the airplane into a dive onto a small island in Puget Sound, where he died. The agency said that, had Mr Russell wanted, he could have recovered from the dive.