Seattle-Tacoma plane thief ‘had full airport credentials’
A man who stole an empty passenger plane from Seattle airport and then crashed it was an airline worker with full credentials, authorities say.
The 29-year-old had worked for Horizon Air for more than three years, towing and tidying aircraft and loading bags.
The man, named by US media as Richard Russell, took off late on Friday, forcing the airport to close while two fighter jets gave chase.
After making “incredible manoeuvres”, he crashed the plane and was killed.
The flight lasted 90 minutes and the crash site is on Ketron Island, a sparsely populated area in Puget Sound.
“At this time, we believe he was the only one in the aircraft but of course, we haven’t confirmed that at the crash site,” said Jay Tabb, chief of the FBI’s Seattle division.
A former airline colleague of Russell described him as a “quiet guy”.
“He was well liked by the other workers,” Rick Christenson told. “I feel really bad for Richard and for his family. I hope they can make it through this.”
Transcripts of his conversation with air traffic control reveal a man who appears surprised about his feat, who is unclear as to the full operations of the plane, who has no intention to hurt anyone and who ultimately apologises to his loved ones, saying he is “just a broken guy”.