29 Year Old US Airline Employ Steals Airplane For Joyride; Ends Up Destroying 76-Seater Airliner

In one of the untoward incidents of US airline history, a 29-years old employee, who is said to be the ground service employee or more specifically mechanic stole the airplane and end up wrecking it up in woodland on Ketron Island. The impromptu pilot is no more in the world and so is the Horizon Air 76-seater plane after facing the ‘fiery crash’. The incident has raised dozens of questions like how the ground service employee got an access to the plane? Was it a suicidal act or a fun ride gone wrong?  The airline employee aimed to do some terrorist activity with stealing the airplane or was he the victim of mental illness?

Blast from the Past

What would be a shocker for many of the readers is it isn’t the first of its own kind incident, back in 1969 a homesick mechanic stole the plane went on a mystery ride under the influence of alcohol. The wannabe pilot in the situation was a mechanic in the US air force.

Talking about the latest incident, the mechanic on ride identified as ‘Rich’ or full name Richard Russell was pronounced as the suicidal by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department soon after the incident. But as his audios with the control room are out, it seems to be a complex incident as it seems neither a suicidal incident nor a terrorist activity. It should be noted here that the Sheriff department in the first place declined all the associations of this incident as a terrorist activity. Moreover, the department asserted that the horrific crash occurred due to lack of the flying skills. At first, the ground service agent was identified as a Pierce County resident and his identity wasn’t revealed.

Who was Richard Russell?

Named as Rich during the conversation with control, Richard Russell was an employee of Horizon Air, working as the ground service agent for three and half-years.  As per the insights, getting an access to the airplane wasn’t something strange for Russell; having access to that was part of his work in one or the other way. Russell, the resident of Pierce County is neither linked up with terrorists nor with any sort of mental illness. The probe into the matter is yet underway, and as expected soon the cat will be out of the bag.

Is stealing an airplane that easy?

This incident has jeopardized the safety and security assurance claims done by the airlines working in the US. But one actually need to understand that no strong policy can undo such incidents as it’s all about loyalty of the employee and how the things are clicking in his or her head at the last moment.

Around every of the airlines, employee have access to the airplane in one or the other capacity. In many of the bids to make access only to the related persons, the reputable airlines issue Secure Identification Display Area (SIDA) badge to its employee along with airline ID in order to make sure only the purposeful entry of the employees. The issuance of this badge also limits the ground service agents’ access to the airplane and also other employees, who actually have no work to be done with entering the airplane.

It should be noted here that those employees who are allotted the SIDA badge are undergone the radar for the background check, which actually brings out information about the criminal history (if any), ties with terrorist or some banned outfits and other relationships as well.  But what seems to miss out among many of it is mental illness test. Such a test isn’t conducted at all and is only advocated if something of this comes out about the employee during the background check.

The mental illness check seems to need of the hour as airlines reputation, hundreds of lives and millions of dollars are actually on a stake, with one ‘wrong’ employee making an entry it’s all done and dusted.

Suicidal or Joy Ride gone wrong?

The airplane is no more so the impromptu rider is, but still, there are plenty of questions asking to look this incident in the bigger picture. One thing which looks crystal clear at the moment is Russell wasn’t a terrorist and had no intention to harm anyone.  As his audio conversation with the control room is out, here are some of the important highlights of it:

Controller: “No, I’m not taking you to any jets. I’m actually keeping you away from aircraft that are trying to land at Sea-Tac.”
Russell: “Oh, OK, yeah, yeah, I don’t want to want to screw with that. I’m glad you’re not … screwing up everyone else’s day on account of me.”

Controller: “… Apparently a grounds crewman with Horizon, I guess. And uh, right now he’s just flying around, and just he needs some help controlling his aircraft.”
Russell: “Nah, I mean, I don’t need that much help. I’ve played some video games before.”

Controller: If you could, could you start a left-hand turn, and we’ll take you down to the southeast, please?
Russell: “This is probably like jail time for life, huh? I mean, I would hope it is, for a guy like me.”
Controller: “Well … we’re not going to worry or think about that. But could you start a left-hand turn, please?



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