Suicidal Ramp Worker Crashes Q400 (Updated, Corrected)

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A Horizon Air Q400 crashed on Ketron Island near Seattle-Tacoma Airport in Washington State after 29-year-old ramp worker Rich Russell was able to take it off from the busy international airport. The motive was suicide and it was not a terrorist act.  Russell used a tug to turn around the aircraft, which was waiting for maintenance, took the left seat, started it and taxied to a runway to take off. The aircraft was not scheduled to fly passengers on Friday and Russell was the only one on board.

Exactly how he took off without authorization from Sea Tac is unclear but a short time later the aircraft was  captured on cell phone video doing aggressive maneuvers, including a full loop that recovered about 100 feet above Puget Sound. There was never any indication that Russell was intending to harm anyone but himself. He was in contact with air traffic controllers and described himself as a "broken guy" with "a couple of screws loose." After doing the loop he said he planned to try a barrel roll and if that was successful he'd "put the nose down and call it a night." The aircaft crashed in a wooded area on the sparely populated island about 40 miles southwest of the airport. There were no buildings hit and no one was killed or injured on the ground.

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Comments (13)

"President Donald Trump was briefed on the incident while on vacation at his golf club in New Jersey."

Thank you sooo much for informing your readers about the Presidents New Jersey Golf vacation. That is the most important part of the whole story. It should have been the headline. Why didn't you add his score and favorite set of clubs to the story? By-the-way, what color shirt and shoes did he wear while on vacation?

I make a point to read the most important aviation stories on aviation news sites expecting details on the occurrence. Not more TDS.

Posted by: Klaus Marx | August 11, 2018 11:09 AM    Report this comment

If you were a pilot in central New Jersey this summer (or last), you'd KNOW why the President's NJ golf vacation is news!

Posted by: Carl Tatsch | August 11, 2018 11:32 AM    Report this comment

I highly doubt the position of the F-15s had any influence on this guy...

Posted by: Cameron Garner | August 11, 2018 4:12 PM    Report this comment

WOW! Very impressive flying by just a ramp worker.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | August 11, 2018 8:32 PM    Report this comment

It's pretty obvious that this guy had at least some flying experience. His maneuvers looked smooth to me and you can't do a loop in a plane like this and pull out at 100 ft without knowing something about flying.

Posted by: Kip Hanson | August 12, 2018 11:37 AM    Report this comment

It's pretty obvious this guy had at least some flying experience. His manuevers were smooth and you don't pull out of a modified loop or split S without knowing something about flying.

Posted by: Kip Hanson | August 12, 2018 11:46 AM    Report this comment

Within a day or two the leading news papers will run a story about how Trump's immigration policy or tariffs were responsible for this unfortunate incident. We don't need AvWeb needlessly including Trump like the rest of the rag media as being associated with every bad thing that happens.

Posted by: Dale Rush | August 12, 2018 1:57 PM    Report this comment

For anybody whose has worked the line during slow times this story might not be a complete surprise. He gave himself a push from the gate. Everyone around probably figured it was maintenance taking a plane to the hanger then he takes the closest runway. An empty airplane is way overpowered so he might have used a taxiway. The scary thing is how Homeland Security will over react to this. Almost ever report has said that this isn't terrorism. It is disturbing that terrorism is part of so many aviation reports now.

Posted by: John Randall | August 12, 2018 2:37 PM    Report this comment

"Exactly how he took off without authorization from Sea Tac is unclear"

Does Sea Tac have some new fangled remote throttle and flight control system we're not aware of?

If it, then yes it is pretty clear.

Posted by: Robert Ore | August 12, 2018 10:28 PM    Report this comment

Given the history of terrorism and aviation in the US it doesn't seem out of line to include information about the Federal Government's reaction to this incident, at least in early reports before it became clear this wasn't related to terrorism.

Posted by: Mark Sletten | August 13, 2018 10:00 AM    Report this comment

Loop? Not even close. He started a poorly executed aileron roll that turned into an aw crap split-S pull out that almost hit the water.

Posted by: Gary Williams | August 13, 2018 10:57 AM    Report this comment

For anyone planning to end such a session with a successful landing, knowing and staying within all limitations would be paramount. For the mindset on display here, such a concept as quantifiable limitations might not even be in the lexicon so it is easy to imagine that operating within some of the most basic limitations such as G loading, airspeed, engine torque and RPM etc. did not inhibit the individual's efforts like they would have someone else's who wanted to live after the flight. That someone with complete abandon not planning to live past the end of the flight might be able to sloppily pull off these maneuvers with an empty airplane and little fuel is not completely the feat that it initially appears to be..

Posted by: John Kliewer | August 13, 2018 11:36 AM    Report this comment

I suppose this display of "airmanship" will help aid/address the pilot shortage... now that people see how easy it is to fly an airplane "You can do it" (Waterboy 1998) takes on a whole new meaning: Flight Sim X, a couple of YouTubes and you're off to the flight levels...Yikes!

And to think I took loans to get all of my ratings...

Posted by: Mariano S. | August 13, 2018 12:06 PM    Report this comment

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