How a Baggage Handler Stole a Plane From One of America's Busiest Airports
Richard Russell may have learned to fly from videos online.
After a baggage handler at Sea-Tac International Airport managed to steal a passenger plane Friday, many were left wondering how a man with zero flight experience could pilot such an aircraft.
Richard Russell , 29, was apparently able to climb into an otherwise empty 76-seater Horizon Air turboprop, take off and fly for around an hour while pulling off daring aerial maneuvers. He eventually crashed and was killed.
Inside Edition found videos on YouTube showing pilots at the controls of the same model of plane, along with tutorials showing how to take off.
“Very likely he had some desktop simulator time and desktop simulators are very sophisticated machines, it's not your average video game,” aviation expert and author of “Paper Wings” Les Abend told Inside Edition.
Abend showed Inside Edition how easy it is to learn the basics on a flight simulator.
More is also being learned about Russell and what drove him to pull off what is being called a suicidal stunt.
Nicknamed Beebo, he was raised in Wasilla, Alaska.
Russell and his wife, Hannah, ran a bakery in Oregon for three years. They sold the business in 2015 and moved to Washington state, where he got a job for Horizon Air, a subsidiary of Alaska Air.
He seemed to be bored with his job as a baggage handler but was fascinated by flying and even posted a video on Facebook of a flight in a private plane over Alaska. He traveled the world with his wife and outwardly seemed happy.
But that's not how he saw himself, as he revealed in the exchange with air traffic control before his death.
“Just a broken guy who has got a few screws loose I guess. Never really knew it until now,” he told the tower.
Russell never bothered to learn how to land and crashed on a remote island in Puget Sound.
“I wouldn't know how to land [the plane]. I wasn’t really planning on landing it,” he said.
The NTSB is now reviewing the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder that were recovered from the crash site.
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