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Plane thief was vetted, had full airport access

August 13, 2018 06:53 AM


Plane thief was vetted, had full airport access
If he had the skill set to do loops, he could have certainly flown it into a building, say experts

The theft of an empty plane from the Seattle airport by an airline worker who performed dangerous loops before crashing into a remote island in Puget Sound illustrated what aviation experts have long known: one of the biggest potential perils for commercial air travel is airline or airport employees causing mayhem.

Richard Russell, who worked for Horizon Air for over three years, was vetted by the highest level to have access to the aircraft.

Gary Beck, CEO of Horizon Air, said it wasn’t clear how the man knew to start the engine, which requires a series of switches and levers. At a news conference, officials from Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air said that they are working with authorities.

“Last night’s event is going to push us to learn what we can from this tragedy so that we can ensure this does not happen again at Alaska Air Group or at any other airline,” said Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Airlines.

It’s unclear how Russell attained the skills to do loops in the aircraft.

Experts warn “insider threat” is a serious issue. “If he had the skill set to do loops with a plane like this, he certainly had the capacity to fly it into a building and kill people on the ground,” said Erroll Southers, a former FBI agent.

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