The man who stole a aircraft and flew it for about an hour on Friday night over Puget Sound in Washington State earlier than crashing on an island has been recognized as Richard B. Russell, in accordance with a regulation enforcement official.
Mr. Russell, a floor service agent on the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, took off round eight p.m. native time in an unauthorized flight, delaying dozens of flights because the airport enforced a brief floor cease.
He flew across the Seattle-Tacoma space, chatting generally calmly and generally in a frenzied stream of consciousness with air visitors controllers who tried to information him to a secure touchdown. But the aircraft got here down in a fiery crash on Ketron Island within the Puget Sound, about 30 miles from the airport.
Alaska Airlines said in a statement that the one that took the aircraft was employed by Horizon Air, a subsidiary. The plane was a 76-seat turboprop, a Q400, flying for Horizon. No one else was believed to be on board and officers confirmed he was killed within the crash.
“I want to share how incredibly sad all of us at Alaska are about this incident,” Brad Tilden, chief government of Alaska Air Group, mentioned at a information convention on Saturday. “Our heart is heavy for the family and friends of the person involved.”
Recordings of Mr. Russell’s dialog with air visitors controllers reveal that he was admiring the view of the Olympic Mountains at sundown, complaining of lightheadedness and musing about potential jail time if he have been to land the aircraft safely.
He mentioned he hoped to have a “moment of serenity” within the air however lamented that the sights “went by so fast.” He additionally talked about doing a barrel roll and puzzled whether or not the aircraft might do a again flip.
“I got a lot of people that care about me and it’s gonna disappoint them to hear that I did this,” he could possibly be heard saying. “I would like to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess. Never really knew it until now.”
At one level, a controller could possibly be heard urging Mr. Russell to land the aircraft.
“I don’t know man,” he mentioned. “I don’t know. I don’t want to. I was kind of hoping that was gonna be it.”
Videos taken by onlookers throughout Mr. Russell’s flight confirmed the aircraft doing deep dives, broad loops and no less than one upside-down roll.
Debra Eckrote, the chief of the northwest regional workplace of the National Transportation Safety Board, mentioned on Saturday that it was conceivable floor service agent would have entry to plane.
“They don’t necessarily use a key, so there’s switches that they use to start the aircraft,” she mentioned. If an individual is floor personnel, “they probably do have at least a basic understanding on how to start the aircraft.”
At a information convention on Saturday, airline officers declined to publicly determine the worker.
Addressing the stolen aircraft’s flying maneuvers, the chief government of Horizon Air Industries, Gary Beck, mentioned, “To our knowledge he did not have a pilot’s license.”
“Commercial aircrafts are complex machines,” he added. “I don’t know how he achieved the experience he did.”
Alaska Airlines officers mentioned Mr. Russell had labored for Horizon for 3 and a half years, and was liable for dealing with baggage and cargo and for towing plane. He had labored his shift on Friday.
Mr. Russell had beforehand undergone a background verify and was meant to be “on the secure side” of the airport, Mr. Tilden mentioned.
Rick Christenson, an operational supervisor with Horizon, mentioned that whereas he had solely met Mr. Russell in passing between shifts, “I do remember him as a nice quiet young man.” He added Mr. Russell’s means to fly may need come from “flight simulator games.”
In a video that seems to have been posted by Mr. Russell in December, he launched himself as a floor service agent. “That means I lift a lot of bags,” he mentioned. “Like, a lot of bags. So many bags.”
But “it allows me to do some pretty cool things, too,” he added, segueing to footage of a flight tour over Ketchikan, Alaska, adopted by photographs of a number of international locations together with France, Ireland and Mexico.
Most importantly, he concluded, “I get to visit those I love most.”
The F.B.I. is main the investigation into the episode.
“We are going to be thorough, which means taking the time needed to scour the area, delve into the background of the individual believed responsible, and review every aspect of this incident with all appropriate public and private partners,” the company’s Seattle area workplace mentioned in a press release.
Adam Goldman, Kirk Johnson and Sarah Mervosh contributed reporting. Jack Begg contributed analysis.