Report Shows How A Baggage Handler Stole A Horizon Q400

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Almost four years after a Horizon Air baggage handler managed to steal a company Q400 and ultimately kill himself in a controlled crash, a Washington television station has filled in some missing pieces to the narrative on the bizarre incident. KOIN 6 obtained surveillance video of the actual theft of the aircraft. It took some planning and determination for Richard Russell, who’d observed hundreds of departures in his four years with the airline at SeaTac, to nab the $40 million airplane. He put that accumulated experience and knowledge into action on Aug. 10, 2018.

The surveillance video shows Russell repeatedly approaching the Q400 with a tug, but on the last trip to the airplane he gets on the flight deck and starts the engines. With the engines at idle, and other workers going about their business near the plane, Russell uses the tug to turn the plane about 180 degrees. A misstep almost ended the incident on the ground. After disconnecting the tug, the plane started creeping forward but Russell managed to get into the flight deck to stop it before it hit anything.

Russell then barged through the procession of aircraft heading for their assigned runways and lined up on Runway 16C. Before taking off, Russell contacted the tower. “Horizon Guy, about to take off. It’s gonna be crazy.” For more than an hour, Russell did aerobatics and low passes in the commuter plane just south of the airport while being followed by a pair of Oregon National Guard F-15s. He remained in contact with ATC but ignored pleas to attempt landing the plane. He instead flew it into an isolated area of a nearby island, killing himself but causing no other property damage or casualties.

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11 COMMENTS

    • Today many people try to take others with them.

      Decades ago there was at least one case of a fussed airport/airline employee crashing a plane with pilots and pax on board.

      I forget what the motive of the perp at SEATAC was estimated to be.

  1. Fool should have attempted to land at MC chord AFB and taken the consequences, it was dumb all the way around. The plane would have been likely scrapped after all the loops and rolls from over stress.

  2. My aerobatic practice area is one island over (McNeil rather than Ketron, where he crashed). I remember hearing the sonic boom of the F-15s coming up from Portland.

    I am somewhat surprised the Navy doesn’t participate in this stuff–they have a huge base on Whidbey chock full of F-18s (just check out Google Earth for the amazing number of them), not 30 miles north of Seattle.

    • Homeland Security is Air Force/Air National Guard. The navy doesn’t get involved with this. They used to maintain a scramble team at McChord AFB, just south of Seattle. I’m sure it was cost cutting to use the Portland ANG at PDX as the scramble base.

  3. This is truly one of the most bazaar episodes in all of aviation history. AVWEB reported on it at the time and it seemed to be something out of a cheap, technology devoid TV episode plot, the story, not the AVWEB report.