Airport employee Richard Russell shockingly stole an Alaska Airlines plane at the Seattle-Tacoma airport on Aug. 10 and took it for a bizarre joyride by himself before it crashed. Here are five things about him.
Richard Russell, 29, has been identified as the airport employee who randomly stole an Alaska Airlines Horizon Air Q400 jet at Seattle-Tacoma airport on Aug. 10 and took it on a joyride by himself before he crash landed and sadly died. Although it’s not yet known how Richard, who worked with airport baggage and was not a pilot, was able to get in the plane and fly it away from the airport without being caught, F-15 fighter jets were called to track him as soon as airline employees realized what was going on. After a ride full of dangerous loop-the-loops moves and bizarre conversation with the air traffic controllers, Richard wasn’t able to land safely and crashed into a heavily wooded area on Ketron Island causing the jet became engulfed in flames. No one else in the area was hurt. Here are five things you should know about Richard.
1.) He worked for Horizon Air at Seattle -Tacoma Airport for almost four years. His LinkedIn account describes his position as a ground service agent and an operations agent. Ground service agents’ job duties are to load and unload bags, direct aircraft for takeoff and de-ice planes in the winter. He documented his feelings working at the job on his social media and said he liked to travel and was hoping to one day work in a management position at the company. He also said he was thinking of becoming a military officer.
2.) He was married. Richard shared many pictures of him and his wife, Hannah, on social media and didn’t appear to have any children. In a blog post, he said he and his wife met while at school in Oregon in 2010 and married a year later. They opened and ran a bakery for three years called Hannah Marie’s Bakery in North Bend, Oregon before eventually moving to Seattle in 2015.
3.) He was born in Key West, Florida and grew up in Alaska. He moved to Alaska when he was seven years old, according to one of his blog posts. During his time most recently in the Seattle area, Richard was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social sciences from Washington State University.
4.) After the stolen plane incident, he was labeled as “suicidal” by authorities. Although he never claimed he was trying to kill himself while conversing with air traffic controllers, some of his comments about never intending to land the plane and having a few “screws loose” indicate he may have had suicidal intentions and/or was mentally ill. There is currently a background check being done on him to see if a possible motive can be found. As of right now, none of his close family or friends have spoken out about the incident or his state of mind.
5.) He reportedly didn’t have any flying experience. Authorities said he took the airplane from the maintenance area and used a push back tractor to rotate it 180 degrees before takeoff. Horizon CEO Gary Beck spoke with the media about the takeoff as well as the stunts Richard did in the air and indicated that he had no idea how he learned to do any of it with no flying experience. “We don’t know how he learned to do that,” Gary said when asked about Richard’s joyride activity. “Commercial aircraft are complex machines. No idea how he achieved that experience.”
The incident is currently being investigated thoroughly to determine the many factors surrounding the situation.