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Sun, Aug 12, 2018

Bizarre Airline Theft and Crash Blamed on Airport Worker (Updated)

Horizon Air Q400 Put Through Aerobatic Maneuvers, Sightseeing Flight Before Fatal Crash

Initial Report 0056 ET, 08.11.18/Updated Throughout the Day with Add'l Detail: We're really not sure how to take all this... but details emerging after a fatal Horizon Air crash seem way too incredible to believe at first glance.

An airport worker, first identified as a mechanic, and then as a ramp agent, apparently took unauthorized possession of a Horizon Air Q400 twin turboprop, got it powered up, and somehow took off without permission or clearance from Sea-Tac Airport late Friday night. There are extensive questions (and few answers) as to how he took control, got the aircraft powered up, and then gained access to a runway to engage in a takeoff -- and how much supervision/surveillance surrounded the airplane -- though the matter is sure to result in extensive new regs and some inevitable over-reaction in order to deal with what is, statistically, an extremely rare occurrence. 

Thoughout the ensuing flight, the single person on board (now ID'ed as Richard Russell), and confirmed as an employee of the airline, engaged in sightseeing, and some radical maneuvers, that appear to have included rolls and some inverted flight. One ground observer also reported Russell looping the airplane. Russell, in extensive conversations with ATC, admitted that much of his flight experience apparently came from flight simulator gaming.

Nearby USAF F-15s were scrambled to intercept, ATC brought in pilots to help Russell make some sense of aspects of the airplane that he did not understand, and conducted calm, rational attempts to persuade Russell to land the airplane at a nearby military field, despite Russell's concern about being arrested.

The airline indicates that Russell did not have a pilot's license.

Russell made a number of statements that indicated depression, suicidal thoughts, and an apparent belief that his life was over. The resulting crash may have occurred purposefully, or accidentally, but is as yet is undetermined -- though Russell voiced a desire to harm no one and the eventual accident took place on a small island, in an area of no habitation. The only person known to have been harmed is Russell, himself.

ATC attempts to converse with Russell were extensive, and Russell varied from nearly giddy with the sights and sensations of the flight, to a sad self-determination that he was a broken man -- and was about to die. Again; ATC personnel and pilots brought into the ATC communications process were reassuring, calm, and almost unbelievably matter-of-fact with the bizarre situation they were dealing with.

Still; Russell was undoubtedly disturbed, and extremely depressed... and after listening to the entire conversation disclosed so far, it's obvious that he harbored no inclinations toward terrorism and was aware that he was in severe peril.

ANN will have more info to follow... as some of the most important details are yet to be revealed.

FMI: www.alaskaair.com

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