Newly-released surveillance video shows the moment a baggage handler at Seattle Airport stole an Alaska Airlines plane before deliberately crashing it on a remote island, killing himself.
Authorities at the Port of Seattle have released airport CCTV footage from cameras both inside the terminal and out on the tarmac that document the 2018 incident unfolding in real time.
In the footage, 29-year-old Richard Russell, who worked as a baggage handler at the airport, is seen passing through airport security with the words, “the Sky’s no limit” written on the back of his t-shirt.
Five hours later, Russell is seen making it out onto the tarmac in the cargo area of the airport and then using a tow vehicle to push the propeller aircraft back out onto a taxiway.
Air traffic control started to sense something was not right, and tried to make contact with the plane, but received no response.
Meanwhile, Russell’s co-workers can be seen walking nearby, oblivious to the fact that he is about to get behind the controls of the plane.
Russell can be seen opening the cabin door to the Q400 Turboprop and jumping into the cockpit and taking off.
“Seattle ground Horizon guy. About to take off. It’s gonna be crazy,” he radios the control tower.
Video shot from the ground later shows him performing stunts over Puget Sound.
“Hey, I found myself in a predicament. I’m in the air right now. And just gonna soar around,” he can be heard saying over the radio.
On air traffic control recordings, Russel can be heard speaking with controllers who attempt to persuade him to make a safe landing.
Russell can also be heard joking with air traffic controllers.
At one point, he even asked air traffic controllers: “Hey do you think if I land this successfully Alaska will give me a job as a pilot?”
The air traffic controller replied, “you know, I think they would give you a job doing anything if you could pull this off.”
Russell replied: “Yeah right! Nah, I’m a white guy.”
Air traffic controllers can also be heard begging Russell to land the plane and try to give him directions to a runway where he can land.
“There is the runway just off your right side in about a mile, do you see that?” the traffic controller said.
“Oh those guys will try to rough me up if I try land there…,” Russell replied. “I think I might mess something up there too. I wouldn’t want to do that. Oh they probably have got anti-aircraft.”
“They don’t have any of that stuff, we are just trying to find you a place to land safely,” the traffic controller responded.
Russell told the air traffic controller he wasn’t “quite ready” to bring the plane down.
“But holy smokes I need to stop looking at the fuel ‘cos it’s going down quick,” he added.
“OK, Rich, if you could, could you start a left-hand turn and we’ll take you down to the south-east,” the traffic controller said.
“This is probably jail time for life, huh?” Russell replied. “I would hope it is for a guy like me.”
While still in the air, Russel is heard telling traffic controllers he is “just a broken guy” before telling them he is preparing for “jail time for life”.
Two F-15 fighter jets scrambled from Portland minutes after the plane took off to intercept it.
They were unsuccessful, and one hour and 13 minutes after taking off, Russell then intentionally crashes the plane on an island about 30 miles away, killing himself.
The FBI ruled his death as suicide and say that the incident was not part of any wider criminal activity or terrorism and that Russell acted alone.
Watch the video below.
Holy SHIT! this guy stole an empty Alaska Airlines airplane right off the airport tarmac, went joy riding for an hour and then crashed it into the side of a mountain (deemed a suicide) pic.twitter.com/tUdiF6Q6Rd
— David Diego (@DiegoDarwin2021) July 10, 2022