Plane crashes after airline employee’s solo ‘unauthorized takeoff’ from Seattle airport

Plane crashes after airline employee’s solo ‘unauthorized takeoff’ from Seattle airport

The man, named by United States media as Richard Russell, took off late on Friday, forcing the airport to close while two fighter jets gave chase.

Mr Russell, a ground service employee with Horizon Air, has not been officially named by authorities but his family have revealed his identity.

Two F-15 fighter jets were scrambled as "Rich" flew the passenger plane in an aerial loop, then headed south.

Authorities said that Russell, 29, took off Friday evening in an empty, 76-seat Q400 Horizon Air turboprop plane at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport without authorization.

"Safety is our number one goal", Alaska Airlines CEO Mr Tilden said.

It is reported that the aircraft crashed near Ketron Island outside Seattle.

The Horizon Air Q400 plane of Alaska Airlines was taken by an employee from the airport which resulted in interruption of air traffic at the airport.

Erroll Southers, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and transportation security expert, told AP "the greatest threat we have to aviation is the insider threat". He said the military planes were not involved in the crash.

Sheriff's officials say the employee was "suicidal" and there is no connection to terrorism.

Video showed the Horizon Air Q400 doing large loops and other unsafe maneuvers as the sun set on the Puget Sound. There were no passengers aboard.

Russell, 29, a local ground service agent who assisted baggage handlers, has been identified by media as the man who operated the unauthorized flight on August 10. Those employees direct aircraft for takeoff and gate approach and de-ice planes, as well as handle baggage.

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According to an online blog, Mr Russell lived in Sumner, Washington.

Russell posted a video on YouTube last December showing luggage coming off and being loaded onto aircraft.

As people from the area fill in to pick up their loved ones, frequent flyer Carrie Boyajian said it "kind of worries me about the security of the airport". Like a lot of bags.

Mr Waldron said the plane at its lowest point was no more than 100ft (30.5m) above the water.

Southers says that if the man knew how to do loops he likely had the skills to target people on the ground.

Authorities say Russell, who worked as a ground service agent for Horizon, is presumed to be dead after authorities said he crashed into an island due to his "lack of flying skills".

The wreckage is about 40 miles southwest of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on the isolated Ketron Island off the southern part of the sound, CBS News correspondent Jamie Yuccas reports. Video showed fiery flames amid trees on the island, which is sparsely populated and only accessible by ferry. There were no buildings hit and no one was killed or injured on the ground.

The aircraft was stolen about 8pm. Horizon Air is a division of Alaskan that flies shorter routes in the western US.

Per CNN, the man also had some weird and heartbreaking radio correspondence from the cockpit before the 76-seat Horizon Air turboprop went down.

The crash sparked a fire in the dense forest.

His former coach said there's still a weight belt in the Wasilla High gym that says "Beebo" - adding he was in "total shock" over the incident. Investigators were trying to retrieve the plane's flight data recorder and its cockpit voice recorder.

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