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5:19, 12 August 2018

&#039Suicidal&#039 airline employee plane theft started with flick of a switch, officials say

&#039Suicidal&#039 airline employee plane theft started with flick of a switch, officials say

Climb into the cockpit of a plane and start it up. It&rsquos as easy as flicking a switch.

&ldquoThey don&rsquot necessarily use a key so there&rsquos a switch that they use to commence the aircraft,&rdquo National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) official Debra Eckrote said Saturday as she briefed reporters on the theft of a Horizon Air Q400 by a &ldquosuicidal&rdquo airline employee who crashed it into a remote island in Washington State soon after a 90-minute fight.

That employee has been identified as Richard Russell, 29, a Horizon Air employee, who is presumed dead right after Friday’s crash.


Richard Russell, 29, a ground-service agent for Horizon Air, has been identified as the unauthorized pilot in Friday’s plane crash near Seattle.

&nbsp(Social media photo)

Eckrote stated Friday&rsquos event was extremely unusual.

&ldquoIt&rsquos not like we get this every single day,&rdquo she stated.

The FBI is investigating how the thief was capable steal the plane, which was parked at a upkeep region, and take off without clearance from air visitors controllers.


The thief was described as a Horizon ground service agent at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport with an identification card that allowed him access to be near planes in safe areas.

&ldquoHe was in a position to take the aircraft and get it airborne and we do know he was in communication with air targeted traffic manage,&rdquo Eckrote said.

&ldquoThis is possibly jail time for life, huh?&rdquo he mentioned throughout his conversation with an air traffic controller. &ldquoI would hope it is for a guy like me.&rdquo

Eckrote mentioned she believes the man had a simple understanding of how to power up a plane simply because of his background as an airline employee.

Horizon officials stated Saturday the thief did not have a pilot&rsquos license and utilized a push-back tractor to spin the plane 180 degrees where it was parked.

Video showed the turboprop plane carrying out huge loops and other hazardous maneuvers as the sun set on Puget Sound.

Of course, there’s a lot a lot more to flying a plane than just beginning the engines. Aviation lawyer Mark Dombroff told Fox News Saturday that it was striking that the thief truly flew for 90 minutes.

&ldquoThe truth that he was aloft for almost 90 minutes without the airplane crashing, the reality that he was in a position to take off the airplane in the initial instance, would recommend that he had a lot of familiarity with the aircraft controls and capabilities,&rdquo Dombroff said. &ldquoHe may well have had a lot of experience flying a personal computer-primarily based flight simulator, a single you can get in a personal computer shop.&rdquo

The bizarre case points to a peril for commercial air travel — conjuring images of airport personnel causing mayhem.


&quotThe greatest threat we have to aviation is the insider threat,&quot Erroll Southers, a former FBI agent and transportation safety specialist, told The Connected Press. &quotHere we have an employee who was vetted to the level to have access to the aircraft and had a ability set proficient sufficient to take off with that plane.&quot

There have been other instances involving airplanes and folks intent on snatching them.

On Tuesday, for instance, an 18-year-old was formally charged with attempting to steal an American Eagle twin-engine jet so he could fly it to a rap concert in another state last month.

Zemarcuis Devon Scott was arrested soon after police located him sitting in the cockpit at Texarkana Regional Airport.

Police asked about Scott&rsquos lack of pilot training, and he allegedly said he did not believe there was much a lot more to flying than pushing buttons and pulling levers.

In 2003, Ben Padilla, a private pilot, stole a Boeing 727-223 in Angola with an accomplice. The aircraft began taxiing with no communication amongst the crew and the tower. It then maneuvered erratically, entered a runway without clearance and took off with its lights off and its transponder not transmitting, Smithsonian Air &amp Space magazine reported.

The 727, Padilla and his cohort haven&rsquot been observed since.

The Connected Press contributed to this report.

Published at Sat, 11 Aug 2018 19:14:00 +0000

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