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Baggage Handler Who Stole Plane From SeaTac Identified

From the Seattle Times:

The airline employee who took a plane from Sea-Tac Airport on Friday night and flew it throughout the Puget Sound region before crashing on an island was 29-year-old Richard Russell, according to multiple sources, including one in law enforcement.

“He was a quiet guy. It seemed like he was well liked by the other workers,” said Rick Christenson, an operational supervisor with the airline who retired in May. “I feel really bad for Richard and for his family. I hope they can make it through this.”

A married man who previously ran a bakery, he’d worked at SeaTac for Horizon Air since 2015 and was considered a good employee by coworkers. Last night he used a vehicle to turn an Air Alaska Bombardier Q400 from a maintenance bay before climbing inside & taking it onto the runway. This was obviously no small feat…

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Russell was able to fly for almost an hour with F15 fighter jets tailing as he pulled off moves that stunned onlookers. Watching the video below I couldn’t believe he was able to pull out of that dive after completing what appears to be a barrel roll. It looks like he was literally only feet above the water.

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Gary Beck, CEO of Horizon Air, said the employee didn’t have a pilot’s license and he wasn’t sure how he had learned to fly.

“Commercial aircrafts are complex machines,” Beck said. “They’re not as easy to fly as, say, a Cessna 150, so I don’t know how he achieved the experience that he did.”

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Everyone talks about the security lines & what we have to go through as passengers, but I’d never given much thought to airport employees (besides when they’re rolling their eyes at me while I’m flustered near the shoe bins). I think this incident is going to spark widespread investigations & changes in precautions taken for employees at SeaTac & around the country (no shit, Kate). I hope it also brings the mental health conversation into the spotlight in a productive way.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.