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Baggage handler with no flying experience stole jet from airport and took off in it

Baggage handler with no flying experience stole jet from airport and took off in it

He flew and later crashed the plane he stole; nobody else was on board

In 2018, a baggage handler with no flight experience working at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Washington, stole a plane and took off in it.

Nobody suspected that 29-year-old Richard Russell was going to steal the plane until he cut in line for take-off, having got it onto the runway and conducted pre-flight checks without being caught.

Warning, the following video contains scenes some may find upsetting:

The plane was an Alaska Airlines Bombardier Q400 and when he got it into the air a pair of F-15 fighters were scrambled to intercept him.

Footage from the airport on the day Russell stole the plane showed the baggage handler heading through security at the start of the day and about five hours later cameras spotted him heading for the cargo section of the airport where baggage handlers work.

He was seen using a tow vehicle to move the Alaska Airlines plane into position while Air Traffic Control opened communications.

Richard Russell was able to open the door of the plane while it was moving and get inside.
Port of Seattle/NBC News

With the plane now rolling forwards, Russell was seen opening the cabin door while the plane was moving and getting inside.

Once inside the plane he sent out the message that he was 'about to take off' and that 'it's gonna be crazy'.

Having reached this point, there was nothing anyone could do to stop him from trying to fly the plane and he managed to get it up in the air.

However, he then messaged in to say he'd 'found myself in a predicament' and was 'just gonna soar around'.

With the airport locked down and Russell up in the air, people tried to convince him to come back down. He responded: "Hey do you think if I land this successfully Alaska will give me a job as a pilot?"

He also told people he'd 'played some video games before' and asked if he was able to try a backflip in the plane.

CCTV from the airport caught the moment the baggage handler took off in the stolen plane.
Port of Seattle/NBC News

A number of runways and landing destinations were suggested to Russell, but he said he 'might mess something up there' and that he 'wouldn't want to do that'.

The 29-year-old told air traffic control he was 'just a broken guy', that he 'had a few screws loose' but 'never really knew it 'til now'.

He said his actions were 'going to disappoint' people who knew him and 73 minutes after he took off from the airport, he deliberately crashed the plane into the sparsely populated Ketron Island.

Russell did not survive the crash and investigators judged that had he wanted to he could have pulled the plane out of the dive it ended up crashing from.

According to the FBI, he didn't have a pilot's license, but had worked out how to fly a plane from working at the airport.

Featured Image Credit: Richard Russell blog / Port of Seattle

Topics: US News, News