In 2018, an inexperienced baggage handler working at Washington’s Seattle-Tacoma International Airport stole a plane and took off.
No one knew anyone would steal the plane until 29-year-old Richard Russell brought the plane to the runway and joined the takeoff line after performing a pre-flight inspection without getting caught.
The plane was an Alaska Airlines Bombardier Q400, and when it took off two F-15 fighters were dispatched to intercept.
Airport footage from the day Russell stole the plane showed baggage handlers clearing security early in the day and about five hours later heading to the airport’s cargo area where the baggage handlers were stationed. It had been. He was seen using a tractor to move an Alaska Airlines plane into position while air traffic control picked up the transmission.
Russell was seen opening the cabin door as the plane rolled forward and the plane moved to board.
Upon boarding the plane, he sent a message saying, “We’re about to take off.” By the time he reached the point, no one could stop him from piloting the plane and he managed to fly it.
But then he texted him, telling him he was “in a pinch” and “trying to fly around.” People tried to convince Russell to return as the airport was blocked and Mr. Russell was flown in.
he replied: “Hey, if I land this safely, do you think the state of Alaska will give me a job as a pilot?”
He also told People, “I’ve played some video games before,” and asked if he could try a backflip on the plane.
A number of runways and landing targets were suggested to Mr. Russell, but Mr. Russell said, “Things could get messed up there,” and “I don’t want to do that.” The 29-year-old told air traffic control he was “just a broken man” with “some screws loose” but “until now I had no idea”.
He said his actions “disappointed” those who knew him, and that he intentionally crashed the plane on the sparsely populated island of Ketron 73 minutes after leaving the airport.
Russell did not survive the crash, and investigators concluded that Russell could have pulled the plane out of the plunge where it eventually crashed if he wanted to.
According to the FBI, he did not have a pilot’s license, but he learned to fly planes while working at the airport.